Youjo Senki, Volumen 5, Capitulo 2

Chapter II,  Strange Friendship


The moment Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff enters the General Staff Office, she heads straight for the office of Lieutenant General von Zettour, with whom she has an appointment.

Even describing them generously, her steps can’t be called light. Of course, the flight over the long distance from the east to the capital is tiring. But even the physical fatigue of transferring between transport planes and flying herself for part of the trip is nothing compared to her worn-down mental state.

Out the window, the sky is overcast.

If Being X is maliciously pulling strings, then he has an appallingly good understanding of our situation.

I really hate when the sky is like this. It expresses my mental state too accurately.

But if the sky represents my current feelings, then will it clear up?

Will that day come eventually?

No, I have to get past these gripes.

Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff must admit her mistake as the deeply shameful truth that it is. It’s humiliating and a complete blunder, but she would hesitate to hide it.

Only people who are truly incompetent hide their mistakes.

A hopeless fool. Oversize garbage. Execution by firing squad wouldn’t be enough punishment. No matter what words I use, they don’t cut it.

Accidents happen when small mistakes are repeatedly covered up. An organization that hides small mistakes will eventually be done in by a mishap too huge to conceal.

Humans are creatures who make mistakes.

If you don’t admit your mistake, that mistake will crush you.

Which is why, or more like, “therefore…” The only way to deal with imbeciles who hide their mistakes is to shoot them. I’d really like to shoot inept workers, but imbeciles who hide mistakes must be shot.

That’s a self-evident truth.

Rather than a saying or axiom, it’s more something proven by humans through the experience society has acquired.

Though it may not be perfect, I have a modern intellect. Rather than be the bungler who hides her mistake, I am forced to be the bungler who reports it.

Thus, even if Lieutenant Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff is ashamed, she has to redeem her failure.

“I’ll be frank, General. We killed too many. But luckily…it’s not so late in the game that we have to give up on changing policy.”

“I thought total war was decided by the weight of the enemy corpse pile.”

He’s right.

General von Zettour’s understanding of total war is completely correct. There’s no better strategy than to pile up enemy corpses.

But if the premises change, then the correct answer also changes. That’s why she has to report the mistake she discovered.

“As you say, sir. But I think decreasing the number of our enemies with words is cheaper than using bullets.”

If someone is an enemy, there’s nothing to do but kill them. But that’s only if they’re really an enemy.

For better or worse, Tanya is partial to streamlining. If there is a lower-cost option, that’s the correct one.

“We need to keep the home country’s resource situation and production capacity issues in mind. We need to rethink our habit of approving the indiscriminate scattering of bullets.”

Words are a much lighter burden for logistics than bullets.

Divide and conquer.

The first thing in support of that great principle is words.

Words, language, names, and propaganda played a critical role in the rule of the colonies of those only-partial-to-sports-and-war tea nuts, right?

“If we don’t have to send them from the home country, then that certainly is cheaper.”

Considering the labor and materials that went into making a single bullet, plus the costs of transporting them to the front lines, this was the correct approach to prepare.

From the logistics perspective, Lieutenant General Hans von Zettour thinks Tanya’s idea is fine.

“But, Colonel. The issue here is not only cost but also utility.”

With the expectation of results as a proviso.

“Utility, General?”

“Bullets have a physical function. Ideological arguments haven’t been very effective in the countryside even with the General Staff and Supreme Command working together.”

It’s only natural that a decent soldier would want to drive a wedge into the hostile Federation. It’d be weirder not to.

The Imperial Army is a precise apparatus of violence.

The Empire is on the ball when it comes to waging war. As part of that, the General Staff has been working on pacification efforts from the early stages. General von Zettour himself had even ordered a study on psychological warfare and inspected the results.

But honestly, there were no results. We haven’t had any successes. Which is why while admitting that he understands where she’s coming from, Zettour declares, “Frankly, Logos falls silent in wartime.”

“General, don’t you think that unlike law, Logos can be heard during wartime?”

“…Maybe in theory, but you know…” His next remark is difficult to categorize as affirmative. “To be candid with you, we started in with the same anti-Communist pacification program as we use in the home country almost immediately after the war started, but…we haven’t gotten any results. There’s probably room to consider it research, but it’s not ready to be counted as a practical option.”

Logos, words, reason, logic. It’s terrifying, but Zettour is shaking his head that they haven’t been fruitful.

“Anti-Communist pacification efforts, sir?”

Those words speak to how, though words are a weapon, they’re far from perfect. Ahhh. Tanya sighs as she opens her mouth.

That’s a terrible misunderstanding.

The weapon known as words is complete. No, she can declare that it has even been combat proven.

The Imperial Army and its General Staff fail to realize that because of their intelligence. Intelligent people, due to their superior intellect, often fall prey to this fallacy. Illusions that trap you because you’re reasonable are so insidious.

…I’ve realized that textbook knowledge is often a fantasy because some smart, reasonable person wrote it with reasonable individuals in mind. Humans are usually the virtual opposite of reasonable.

“Yes. The Feldgendarmerie is taking the lead with it. If you’re interested, I can give you the verification results.”

“General von Zettour, I predict that that is precisely our bias. Please toss these anti-Communist pacification efforts straight into the trash,” Tanya quietly declares, although it does pain her slightly that she was also a prisoner of the anti-Communist view in the beginning.

Of course it does.

After all, she herself was so sure they were up against Communists that she believed it to be self-evident. But she should have been deeply skeptical and required proof for everything.

Yes, it’s necessary to treat axioms, self-evident premises, and the like as assumptions.

We committed the folly of assuming our enemies were Communists. In reality, not a single enemy soldier has given any indication of seriously believing in Communism. It’s a contradiction.

We should have observed more closely and realized. The price for letting our assumptions cloud our eyes is enormous for an already huge error.

But I’ve figured it out now.

So I have a duty as an intelligent being. The unproven axiom and the contradiction occurring in reality must be reconciled.

“I don’t think the ideology matters one bit.”

As Zettour urges her to explain, the look in his eyes is one of confusion.

“It’s not reason that’s important, General, but the people’s emotion.”

As a weapon, words work just like bullets. Shooting where there’s no target is just a waste of precious resources.

An apparatus of violence must use its weapons effectively.

“Our pacification efforts shouldn’t be something that chips away at their hostility toward us but something that divides them.”

“You’re saying it’s not ideology sustaining this war?”

“Exactly. The enemy’s mainstay is nationalism masquerading as ideology. We’re missing the mark by criticizing their ideology, so it makes sense that we’re not currently seeing results.”

Going by what she’s seen in the field, Tanya has given up on ideology-based attacks as wasted bullets. If you have a contradiction that can’t be resolved, it’s almost certainly an issue with your premises.

If the base upon which you’re building your assumptions is wrong, you have to admit your mistake despite the shame.

Why would you expect to be able to build a decent structure atop a rotten foundation? I swear on my modern intellect and rationality that I couldn’t stand to construct a condemned building to show off my ineptitude like some masochist. For a decent person like me, that would be sheer unendurable suffering.

Which is why Tanya has to accept her shame and tell her superior officer.

“Our only hope is to distinguish the Communists from the rest. We won’t be able to get away with idly viewing the enemy as Communists.”

“So divide and conquer, then?”

“Conquer? General, isn’t that joke a bit much? Why in the world should the Empire have to take over?”

Administrative services, by their nature, are not an industry that brings about profit.

But it’s true that in an occupied territory, the military government must carry out minimal maintenance of social order, application of the infrastructure, and so on.

Up until now, Tanya has just barely accepted those things as necessary costs. It irritates her to admit that it’s an emergency where market functions are paralyzed, but she understands that’s why maintenance is necessary.

But, she adds with conviction.

Ruling is out of the question. Management via military government is already putting an excessive burden on their organization. Conquer?! If we tried to do that, the army would disintegrate. From there, it’s a straight shot to being an understaffed unethical corporation.

“General von Zettour, if we try to conquer, our military org will collapse from exhaustion before we even fight. What we need is a wonderful friend to whom we can outsource.”

There’s no need whatsoever for the Empire to conquer. Every man to his trade; personnel management must be optimized.

“…That’s an interesting thing to say, but unfortunately the Empire doesn’t have many friends.”

“Then we just need to make some.”

“When you get older, it’s not so easy.”

These pesky problems keep holding us back. It’s a bit late to worry about acquiring friendly state relations with so much historical baggage making things difficult.

On the other hand, I suppose, there are frequently alternative ways to use one’s given conditions. You may be convinced something is useless, but if you change your point of view, you find a way. Poison can be medicine depending on how it’s used.

Even the extremely harmful drug thalidomide, which caused birth defects, was effective against some diseases. And that’s exactly why… Tanya continues with confidence, “But if we build up trust and results, though, maybe we can meet someone. Don’t you think it’s possible for us to meet a new friend?”


“Don’t we have the resource of old enemies?”

There’s a saying in diplomacy: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That may only mean your interests overlap, but overlapping interests are reason enough for two nations to become friends.

“Given the Empire’s traditional international relations, no one doubts that the Federation is an enemy. So we might be able to cultivate friendships with the antiestablishment factions within it.”

“The Federation is a multiethnic state, but…are you arguing that we should try to achieve solidarity with separatists inside it?”

“Yes, General.”

“I see your logic, but Colonel, the issue is whether we can apply what’s written in the textbooks in the field.”

Tanya nods that she understands. It’s not what Zettour said, but she knows that textbooks provide only one possible answer under one set of circumstances.

You only get points for following the textbook in school.

What people want from you in the field, once you go to the front lines, is results. Any idiot whining that it’s not his fault because he did it according to the textbook should be given a swift kick.

“Certainly, the Federation is our enemy. But just because someone is an enemy of our enemy doesn’t automatically make them our ally.”

She does have to agree he’s right. It’s only logical that even if you have a common enemy, the question of whether you can achieve solidarity or not still remains.

“After all,” Zettour continues with a sigh, “it doesn’t even seem like the separatists distinguish between us and the Federation authorities.”

True, that’s an extremely important thing to note.

And in reality, the advancing Imperial Army has been ordered to avoid conflict with the locals to the extent possible, but…the troops have made a lot of mistakes. From seeing how the Feldgendarmerie was operating, Tanya can easily understand why.

“The cause of that is simple. General, we’re nothing but armed outsiders. With no one who can mediate, trouble is unavoidable.”

In terms of having someone who can talk to them, the Empire is at a hopeless level. A mediator, a negotiator we could trust, or at least an interpreter who could facilitate communication… We should have gone in with someone like that. But we’re currently lacking in that department.

“We’re completely missing the boat when it comes to language in our pacification strategy.” Of all things… Tanya reflects bitterly on their situation.

In the Imperial Army, there is currently no one who can converse with people on the ground. We’re at the stage of hurriedly pulling someone from the Foreign Office, but we’ll be lucky if we get someone who has set foot on a battlefield a couple of times. As for someone who can negotiate, we’re only just starting to consider where we might even look.

“Officers should be able to speak the Federation’s official language, though.”

“Yes, General, as you point out…we have learned a tiny bit of Federation language, but…”

Tanya knows the grave truth. To the antiestablishment factions in the Federation, the official language is the language of the enemy.

“General, we’re speaking to allies in the enemy’s language. It’s folly.”

“…You’re saying we shouldn’t use the official language?”

Tanya nods yes, her mood grim.

She wants translators who speak the languages of the antiestablishment factions’ ethnicities, but she knows how well that is likely to go, because she had Serebryakov look into it.

Any specialists in those languages are probably professors in the Empire’s universities. Minority languages are only one field that linguistics experts study. They won’t be able to build a program of systematic language education overnight. In short, it will be a hopelessly long time before the army will be able to talk to these people.

“So it’s a structural weakness in the Imperial Army because we didn’t anticipate expeditions in foreign lands due to our foundational interior lines strategy.”

“Frankly, I don’t think our longtime defense strategy is a problem. The issue isn’t interior lines strategy in and of itself. The root of many of these problems is that we didn’t follow through on it and instead sent troops across the border.” Tanya points out the truth. “At least interior lines strategy will continue to prove effective.”

“That’s fine, Colonel von Degurechaff. So what’s our plan?”

“Our task is clear. We must acquire competence in deploying soldiers abroad, whether we want to or not. And regarding occupation by military government, we should try to improve things as soon as possible and seek new friends in our occupied territories.”

It’s not as if Tanya isn’t aware that she’s asking a lot.

Whether they want to install a puppet or back a friendly power, if the key player isn’t present, the plan won’t even get off the ground.

“Colonel von Degurechaff. You know how few people there are willing to cooperate with the Imperial Army. Do you think you can find the right person under these conditions?”

“I believe it’s possible.”

Zettour urges her to explain.

Perhaps it’s the product of all his hard thinking? His eyes look wise as he stares at her, unflinching.

So Tanya proceeds logically.

“General von Zettour, it’s true that we’ve already had issues with residents of occupied areas. As a result, they’re also somewhat bloodthirsty and hateful, but…they have someone to compare us to.”

“Someone to compare us to?”

“The Federation government. Frankly, in a choice between the heartless Communists and the violent Imperial Army, I think the people are levelheaded enough to choose the latter.”

“So you’re thinking radically, then. Very well, let’s suppose we’re able to join forces with them. Are you saying that our method of occupation should be to make use of the local forces?”

“Yes.” Tanya nods, and Zettour sinks into quiet thought as if mulling over her words before shaking his head to indicate it would be difficult.

“Frankly, I can’t see the advantage. I’ll give you my view as someone keeping logistics working in the rear. If we’re not sure if someone is a friend or foe, in a way, it’s much easier to deal with them as a foe.”

To that opinion, all she can do is sigh. If a fool were uttering it out of foolishness, she would be able to laugh it off as absurd.

The reason she sighs is simple.

“You make a good point, but as for whether they’re friends or foes, they’re definitely friends.”

General von Zettour is a strategist and the polar opposite of a fool.

He’s a great man who understands the field of operations, is well versed in the affairs of logistics, and even keeps busy working on relations between the government and the military as the leading figure in the Service Corps. You can’t really call him one of those guys who are biased toward the army in all respects, who are pro–any kind of force; at any rate, he’s someone in Berun who can bring the arguments between military officers and civil servants to a compromise.

Even someone so competent is, with perfect composure, saying things that I am forced to declare mistaken?

Is the Imperial Army’s paradigm so problematic?

“What…? Colonel von Degurechaff. I never thought the day would come that I’d have to point something out to you. There is a mountain of reports from the Feldgendarmerie on the ground. Read whichever one you like.”

“You mean those guys who can’t tell friend from foe?”


This is the kind of thing that makes people go, Agh.

The cause of this is simple. The mistakes are getting mixed together. General von Zettour’s conclusion is helplessly warped by puzzle pieces that don’t fit.

“General, I’ll be straight with you. Most of the MPs in the Feldgendarmerie can’t even speak the official language of the Federation. All their mistakes of assumptions, prejudices, and relying on untrustworthy interpretation have resulted in a misunderstanding that might as well be called a delusion.”

“…Go on.”

“We need to sort out this situation. What we need is to be able to tell the difference between friend and foe. The vast majority of the ethnic minorities inside the Federation are more hostile toward the Communist Party than us. I don’t think forming an alliance would be impossible. Which is why,” Tanya declares, staring right back into her superior’s eyes, “rather than employing hunting dogs, even excellent ones, with faulty noses, we should hire normal, local hunters who are well informed.”

After a few seconds, thinking in silence, General von Zettour furrows his brow and says, “…That makes sense, although the question is whether such convenient hunters exist… But fine. Who, then? This is you, Colonel von Degurechaff, so I’m sure you have your eye on someone.”

“Sir, I think the best would be the police organizations and national councils.”

“That’s a novel viewpoint, Colonel.”

The look she gets is a stern one.

He must really not like that idea, Tanya frets inwardly. Are ideas that are perfectly reasonable to her still considered radical by the key people at the top of the Imperial Army?

“I’m sure you’re aware, but the Feldgendarmerie considers those very bodies guerrilla hotbeds, and I’ve been told they need to be disarmed. At least, those are the reports coming in as we mop up the partisans.”

Zettour’s half-grumbled words exhibit aha! the approach of a good officer who endeavors to understand the troops’ situation by reading reports.

But. Tanya musters her reply. There is one factor that Imperial Army members such as General von Zettour have no way of understanding.

“General, I think we need to change our point of view. Certainly, we are imperial subjects, whether we’re from the east or the south. We all belong to the Reich.”


“It’s true that both the police organization and the national council have guerrillas mixed in. So in that sense, maybe it makes sense to think that the people are standing up united against the invaders. But,” Tanya declares forcefully. The documents on which General von Zettour is basing his understanding of the situation are fundamentally incorrect, from their very premises. “General, please listen. It’s all a mistake.”

If your premises are wrong, you’ll be mistaken no matter how sharp and prudent of a strategist you are. There’s no way for you to understand the actual circumstances correctly. When planning strategy, mistaken data analysis causes fatal discrepancies.

Correct information from the ground and a correct understanding of the situation must form your base.

“I’ll speak from my experience fighting guerrillas. They do exist certainly, but not everyone who takes up arms is one of them.”

Soldiers don’t hesitate to take up arms.

They’re educated to pick up whatever weapon is within reach and fight the enemy. It makes sense, since they’re armed and disciplined at a nation’s expense to be ready for combat. In fact, they have to be that way.

But civilians are different.

“General, please understand. In the region in question, weapons are considered tools for self-defense. The MPs find fault with weapons for self-defense, but…I don’t understand their interpretation. To speak in extremes, it’s the same as arresting everyone who puts a lock on their door.”

“…Self-defense? Colonel, they’re Federation military rifles and submachine guns.”

“General! That precisely is the root of the misunderstanding.”

“Hmm? Go on, Colonel.”

“Please consider their situation! Of course the only weapons they can get currently are Federation Army castoffs! Do you really mean to say that their circumstances allow them to import small arms with proof of purchase from a vendor in a neutral country?”

The market principle is simple. Items of which there are a surplus supply will proliferate; it’s practically historical truth. The people can acquire large amounts of Federation Army weapons cheaply from the Federation Army supply when they are cast off.

It’s virtually inevitable that the people should buy guns for which it’s easy to procure ammunition rather than expensive automatic pistols. To employ a phrase I don’t much care for, you could even say it’s the invisible hand of God.

Even under Zettour’s sharp gaze, Tanya unwaveringly makes her declaration. “Only a terrible minority is taking up the arms they’ve acquired against the Imperial Army. General, what’s playing out now is a scenario purposefully designed by the minority.”

Where there’s no fire, there’s no smoke, but there are often malicious arsonist types who want to turn a tiny flare-up into a giant blaze. Isn’t that how the Bolshevik lineage maintains itself?! I mean, it’s totally their specialty.

“It’s true that there are destructive elements trying to start what barely deserves to be called a resistance movement by fanning the flames of discord and distrust on both sides. The problem is not so much the resistance but rather that we’re failing to apprehend the instigators.”

“So most of them are opportunists? They’re stirring up Federation cells that they may or may not…actually support?” Zettour nods with a huge grimace.

Even with a mind as sharp as his, I suppose it should be repeated that when basing decisions on mistaken premises, it’s impossible to reach the correct answer.

A brief silence follows.

Keeping silent, Zettour looks up at the ceiling, begins moving his mouth to say something, swallows his words, and then finally gives a small sigh. “…I see what you’re getting at. In other words: We are one. But the enemy may or may not be one, right?”

Tanya is relieved to hear him say that.

As could be expected, I suppose, General von Zettour’s intellect is apparently unclouded.

That he could so quickly see the truth of a minority controlling the majority through fear…is even a surprise to Tanya.

“Yes, General von Zettour. Most of the enemy soldiers we questioned on the battlefield are fighting not for the party but for their ethnic group. To put it another way, we don’t have to go along with the delusion that every Federation civilian is an enemy.”

“…That’s headache-worthy news. If it’s true, we’re fools. We’ve committed yet another strategic blunder that we should have avoided.”

“I apologize for taking so long to get a handle on what was really going on. I leave whether I should resign or not up to you.”

“No, there’s no need for that. On the contrary, you did a fine job realizing all this. We figured it out before it was too late. Let’s consider ourselves lucky.”

I’m grateful for his consolation, but at the same time, it’s a keen reminder of my incompetence. My loathing of Communists caused a serious issue.

My prejudices severely warped my observations, which should have been objective.

Even Zettour’s words speak to the gravity of our failure. If we were “lucky,” then that means we avoided disaster only by chance. We were saved by something as unreliable as luck?

We can’t even say we were saved, then.

A mistake once made must be rectified, or it will be repeated.

Colonel von Degurechaff left with a composed salute, and after seeing her out, General von Zettour fell into silent thought for a time.

When he doubted their assumptions and considered the situation…it probably required immediate action. It wouldn’t do to make the same mistake twice.

He reached for the receiver near at hand and said it was urgent. And when Colonel von Lergen appeared soon after, Zettour got straight to the point. “Colonel von Lergen, I want to change my next inspection destination.”

“Yes, sir! I’ll make the arrangements right away. Will that be the southern front you were anxious about? To observe General von Romel’s operation?”

An excellent, ready response. It was natural that a member of the Operations Division would be thinking of the recently stagnant situation on the southern continent.

“No, the east.”

“The east? Operations’ inspection unit will be heading there in a few days. Are you going to go with them?”

Despite the fact that Zettour had launched straight into the business at hand, Lergen was able to offer a plan immediately. When it came to coordinating and providing assistance, Colonel von Lergen was a model staff officer.

But even he was mistaken. No, it was less that he was mistaken, more that he just had no way of knowing. If the fundamental terms in the east had changed, operation-level inspections would be meaningless. What they needed to do was revise the rules of the game.

Zettour shook his head to clear out extraneous thoughts and continued his concise explanation. “I intend to borrow you from Operations, but I don’t have plans to accompany them. I’ll talk to General von Rudersdorf. You just make the necessary preparations.”

“Yes, sir! May I inquire as to our objective?”

Even if he has doubts, he swallows them as is appropriate. It’s amazing that this mid-ranking officer can support Rudersdorf, with all his overflowing confidence. The only reason someone so irresponsible is so efficient at carrying out operations is his people. Under the circumstances, it’ll be tough, but I would really like Lergen for a secret operation.

“Sure. We’re going to inspect logistics administration in the rear area and also for one confidential matter… Oh, right. There’s another favor I’d like to ask of you. Look for a specialist in ethnic group issues. The faster the better.”

“Understood. Would the member of the National Congress we’re seeking to cooperate with in Operations work?”

“I don’t care, as long as we know for sure that they’re not a spy. If possible, the best would be someone we can trust to maintain confidentiality.”

“Do excuse me, General, but please allow me to ask a nosy question. From what you’re saying, sir, it sounds like…the confidential matter has something to do with ethnic issues?”

“I won’t deny it, Colonel. You can think of it as part of our pacification efforts. If possible, I’d like to consider meeting with leadership on the ground.”

“Understood. We want someone who has connections in the area and can keep a secret. By when, sir?”

He’s a quick one, thought General von Zettour with a smile. He was going to cause a lot of trouble for Colonel von Lergen, who was nodding that he had gotten it all through his head. But he didn’t have a choice.

“The beginning of next week.”

“G-General?” But today’s Friday came through unsaid in Lergen’s bewilderment. Zettour had called him up at the end of the day and ordered him to make arrangements by early Monday.

Of course he was bewildered.

But Zettour pressed the strict order on him and gave Lergen a firm look that said, And what about it? They were at war. In wartime, necessity trumps all else.

For an officer of the General Staff, carrying out their military duties with all due haste was their sacred duty.

“Sorry, but please get it set up. If need be, you can work the Service Corps personnel to the bone. Anyhow, we’re short on time. Get going.”

“Yes, sir. Right away.”


The duties of an intelligence agency during wartime were manifold and include sharing and analyzing information with related national agencies, as well as gathering raw data.

Even just the collection of intelligence military, economic, political, public opinion, technological, and so on had become a subdivided world where only experts could tell the wheat from the chaff.

Chaos, chaos, and more chaos.

It wasn’t easy to sift the precious stones out of a pile of rocks. Even the methods of collection were a complex mix of SIGINT and HUMINT.

Although budget restraints were being removed during the war, intelligence agencies were far from flush with cash. They would have to make do as best they could.

Even just pacifying the heads of each group, who were all convinced their own section was highest priority and deserved the most money, was a struggle in itself. Apparently, Intelligence staffers all have “strong” personalities… Finding someone cooperative was enough for him to want to thank God in spite of himself. Even a slight butting of heads between Intelligence and the Foreign Office was bound to upset his stomach.

But the leader of the Commonwealth’s intelligence agency, Major General Habergram, thought he had accepted all that. So far, he had.

He earnestly believed that steady efforts to regulate things would ultimately bear fruit, and because of that, little by little, he had started to see results.

Currently, the SIGINT efforts to gather military intel were going fine. Their approaches toward enemy identification, jamming, and code breaking were getting results no one could complain about, except how they were eating excessively into the budget.

And even in terms of HUMINT, they had improved all their observation methods. Though there were as many challenges as ever in imperial territory, they had the former Republic covered.

They had a general handle on the movements of the Imperial Army units scattered all over each region.

Even the tricky business of collecting intel on the southern continent was solved when they dispatched a crack agent. He was an old man who grumbled and sent in complaints, but he was unexpectedly persistent.

He had organized multiple raids, albeit small in scale, on enemy supply lines… And the network of nomadic contacts was being built on schedule. Habergram could leave things up to him for the foreseeable future and have no problems.

Still, it had to be added. There was the inadequate budget, the internal and external arguments, the bureaucratic head-butting between sections. And to top it off, along with everything else, the plausible question of whether a mole had infiltrated their organization haunted him every night.

General Habergram had been suffering for a long time like a CEO in charge of a company about to go bankrupt.

And furthermore, aside from the mole issue the only hopeless issue that had been endlessly haunting him since the war broke out something else had mushroomed into a problem so difficult it was virtually impossible to handle.

“The budget but also just people. The intelligence agency is so understaffed. At this rate, we’re just…”

It was people. He didn’t have enough people.

He wanted to puff on a cigar and gripe about the lack of capable people. And it wasn’t just staff. They were also desperately short of management-level leaders and executives.

But although Intelligence had been facing a serious shortage of people since the war began…strictly speaking, they weren’t understaffed in the beginning.

It was once they plunged into wartime that they became thoroughly lacking.

There were two reasons for that.

One was attrition due to war deaths.

It had been a huge mistake to dispatch task forces made up of old hands on joint operations with the Entente Alliance and Republic. They were all attacked by a special unit from the Reich identified as the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion. The damage done by the loss of their invaluable veterans was extensive.

As they rebuilt the organization, educated personnel, and reconstructed their network, the undeniable truth was that he couldn’t regret that heavy loss enough.

The Imperial Army had come out swinging with such perfect timing. Even General Habergram, though he didn’t want to suspect his own subordinates…had to think there was a mole lurking in their org.

The Empire’s luck had held out awfully long for it to be a coincidence.

The problem was, he hadn’t yet managed to grasp the thing’s tail. The moment he found this shameless mole, he intended to kill it dead.

All that was more than enough of a headache, but his suffering was compounded by the way the army and navy treated the remaining human resources.

The second issue was that all the veteran agents on loan from the army and navy had been taken back.

“Shit! I can’t believe they would trip up their own allies…”

The army and navy said they were transferring all their personnel to the front lines and packed them off. Habergram would have liked to give them a piece of his mind.

“We don’t have any people as trustworthy as the ones you need to work in Intelligence.”

The logic made sense. But to then basically take them all away by force… The intelligence agency was in shambles.

Thanks to a double punch from both enemies and allies, there was a severe shortage of veteran agents.

As a result, almost immediately after the start of the war, Intelligence was nearly incapacitated by serious losses. Obnoxiously, the disorderly personnel changes were causing issues with the mole hunt.

As if not having anyone to trust didn’t already have him at wit’s end.

Though the ultra-confidential secret that they had broken the Imperial Army’s code hadn’t leaked, everything else had. He couldn’t help but shudder.

No, with the sloppy state of their anti-espionage efforts, it wouldn’t be strange for even top secret intel to leak anytime.

And even under these difficult circumstances, the requests for Intelligence kept coming in.

The Foreign Office was requesting “an urgent survey of the cooperative relationships between the Empire and other countries.”

The Ministry of Supply had given strict orders to investigate “the Imperial Army’s plans for commerce raids.”

The Office of the Admiralty was fairly screaming at them to acquire “all manner of military intelligence on the Imperial Navy’s submarines as well as the whereabouts of their fleet.”

And as for the War Office, it was somehow managing to demand details from the ground on “the status of both the imperial and Federation forces in the east.”

The cabinet was a cabinet, so each minister inquired after their own interests and areas of jurisdiction.

Of course, General Habergram understood that it was both an important job and a patriotic duty to do so. And as a public servant, I respect that. But, he was forced to lament.

Every section was convinced that their requests should be highest priority in this national crisis, and they didn’t hesitate to stubbornly insist on a certain order of things.

Of course, if it were possible, he would want to cooperate. But as it was, he wanted to scream that he didn’t have enough people. Even if he cried out for trustworthy personnel who had passed the screenings, there was no reply.

The strict order from the Committee of Commonwealth Defense was to do his best with what he had.

It made him want to hold his head in his hands.

No, that was all he could do.

He couldn’t even send any Intelligence staff to the continent in the first place because he didn’t have the bodies.

Which was why a plan was proposed to educate the replacements and transform them into a proper fighting force. Logically speaking, that was a sensible response if you shut your eyes to the social trend of promising young newbies volunteering en masse for frontline service.

General Habergram himself was from a distinguished family.

He knew how their youth felt.

As one of their forerunners, it wasn’t as if he felt no warmth at the manifestation of noblesse oblige.

When the youth left college to volunteer for their fatherland, he could only bow his head in respect of their determination and drive.

If there was a problem that he couldn’t overlook, it was that the determination of the young people offering themselves up for their fatherland was too stubborn.

When all the bright students volunteered for the army to fulfill their sense of noblesse oblige, they applied for air units, mage units, service in the naval fleet, or frontline service in a ground unit and so on.

The conclusion was clear.

They had no interest in rear service. The more outstanding and patriotic, the more brimming with perseverance and intellectual capacity precisely the traits the intelligence agency needed the more likely it was that they wanted to stand at the head of the pack as a frontline commander or officer in the air or mage forces.

The mental fortitude to not go running for rear service was commendable. And truth be told, General Habergram thought very highly of them.

Their determination was admirable.

But he also wished from the bottom of his heart that they would throw him a bone, as the leader in Intelligence, which made its base in the rear.

Naturally, they couldn’t put out a public call for more Intelligence personnel. And due to the system of recruiting personnel who dealt with confidential information, they couldn’t openly ask for people who wanted to serve in the intelligence agency.

When they reached out to someone, they had to do it under a public-facing name and purpose. Since their identities were confidential, the recruiting calls necessarily ended up being for rear-serving officers for the War Office or the Office of the Admiralty.

Thanks to that, they were having…an awfully hard time recruiting outstanding officers. The army and navy wouldn’t let the truly superior officers go.

So they had no choice but to reach out to individuals one by one… But when you invite a talented, patriotic individual with a strong sense of responsibility to bid farewell to the subordinates they’ve been in charge of and do desk work in the War Office or the Office of the Admiralty, you have to be thankful you’re not getting a kick in the teeth.

“Apparently, someone once even asked, ‘You need officers to abandon their friends on the forward-most line and go to the rear?’ They’re not wrong.”

The problem plaguing all the recruiters was…how pure the young people were. Though they praised the youths’ noble spirits, they were in a real fix.

Ultimately, they decided to focus their recruiting efforts on disabled officers who were barred from war-zone service due to their injuries. Superior talents frequently stood up again with an indefatigable spirit.

Officers who voluntarily came back after being injured in battle and still wanted to fight had become extremely capable Intelligence personnel. General Habergram was sure they were worth more than their weight in gold.

But because of the peculiarities of their appearances, he hesitated to send them into the field as spies. Not that disabled military men were rare, but in neutral or hostile countries, he wanted to avoid attracting attention.

“…Maybe we should start recruiting women as agents?”

He realized that if the military in enemy territory was fully mobilized, then women might actually stand out less. All the adult men had been conscripted and sent to the front lines. And the fact that adult women were starting to fill general labor positions in the rear was another important point.

It wasn’t a bad thing to note.

“Hmm, but when it comes to having women parachute into enemy territory…”

Would the General Staff and Whitehall approve of that? Well, since it’s a secret operation, I could probably proceed at my own discretion, but…

Was there any danger of them being used by the enemy in their propaganda war?

Considering the political mess that would result if one of them was captured, doing it unilaterally was a big risk. The more he thought about it, the more things it seemed there were to consider.

An expanding workload and dwindling Intelligence personnel…

“Things just don’t go how you’d like.”

General Habergram tapped his finger on the table in irritation.

There was a shortage of the human resources Intelligence needed. Yet the amount of work was rapidly increasing. He may have been a gentleman, but it still made him curse his situation.

But apparently, having no time to think was just part of war.

There was already a subordinate official, carrying a small mountain of paperwork, peeking his head in.

He set the documents down on the table with a thud.

Blimey. With no time to fall into despair, he reached for his pen, and that’s when he realized something. His subordinate was holding out an envelope.

“Excuse me, sir. This is urgent from the Committee of Commonwealth Defense.”

“From the defense committee? Oh, the summons circular?”

Thinking how rare it was to get a summons, he tore open the envelope and looked over the contents. Then he corrected his mistake.

“No, it’s a request for me to attend a meeting. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Having a member of Intelligence attend a meeting that will have official minutes? He wanted to ask what the prime minister was thinking. Still, an order was an order.

And he had no reason or way to disobey a directive the right person gave via the proper channels.

“It says to attend the Commonwealth defense meeting tomorrow. An official request from the prime minister’s office. I’m busy right now, but I guess I can’t argue. Make sure there’s a car ready for me.”

But really, he wondered what the prime minister was going to say to him.


At the Commonwealth defense meeting…

One look at the high-ranking officials in attendance was enough to gauge the Commonwealth’s situation.

Ashtrays crammed full of cigar butts. Point people from both the army and navy who didn’t even attempt to hide their exhaustion. Rows of bureaucrats who looked vaguely ill.

Utterly spent public servants.

The only one among them with plenty of color in his face was a man like a bulldog who had learned how to sit. Whether he should be seen as arrogant or described as a trustworthy man full of fighting spirit depended on your point of view.

This was His Royal Majesty’s first subject, the leader of the Commonwealth defense meeting, Prime Minister Churbull himself.

“The prime minister hopes that the fighting will move toward the eastern front.”

With worn-out looks on their faces, everyone present turned to the seat of honor. If only! Then we wouldn’t have to suffer. Everyone was screaming internally, that much was clear.

Even General Habergram sympathized with them.

“I’d form an alliance with the devil himself if need be, but what’s so awful about saying what I think? I’d be glad if the two devils duked it out among themselves.” Prime Minister Churbull spoke boldly but without pretension.

That was his strength.

Though he was a crazy war nut, he was stubbornly anti-Empire. Or he was an expansionist warmonger who proudly bore the Commonwealth’s stubborn imperialist principles. He was called many things, but in any case, in the Commonwealth’s political circles, Churbull was talked about in this way.

It was even common to call him a bulldog.

“So you’re quite devout, then.”

“Ah, finally ready to be tucked in?”

Would they be strange bedfellows, or was he a pious man yet tolerant of heresy? Apparently, even the roundabout nastiness delivered as jokes couldn’t pierce his thick skin.

“You needn’t praise me so much, gentlemen. And that’s enough chitchat. What we need is time and manpower to defend our homeland.”

If you let unpleasantness simply pass you by, it doesn’t have much effect. It’s quite astonishing, this man’s heart of steel.

“Very well. I’ll report on our current status.”

A representative from the Air Ministry seemed to endure some dizziness to stand and proceeded to read a compact overview of their combat situation.

The clashes with the attacking Imperial Air Fleet and mage units were on a larger scale than imagined.

“Several major air battles have already broken out, but the Royal Air Fleet has been successful in maintaining air superiority.”

The interception battles against the enemy in the southern part of the mainland were the very definition of intense. Most of the enemies came from air bases in what used to be the Republic. How ironic that the Republic’s fall should come back around to bite us.

Still, it was encouraging that their air screen was still functioning. Just as General Habergram was about to let that weight off his shoulders, thinking he could relax…

A man who seemed to be enduring a stomachache interrupted… It was the head of the air ministry, the inspector general of the air fleet.

“As the inspector general, allow me to add one thing. At present, we’re dipping deep into our savings. Going broke is not a question of if but when.”

“And more specifically?”

“We’re seeing rapid increases in attrition of aircraft, fleet personnel, and the support and relief mage troops. We’re rushing to fill the gaps with voluntary units of refugees and university student volunteers, but…”

The loss of veterans, their replacement with green troops it was the exact same dilemma that General Habergram was facing in Intelligence.

The moment he realized it, he couldn’t help his shock.

The air units get preferential treatment, and they’re still having these issues? When he saw the graph of current losses up on the board, his eyes popped wide open.

They had maybe two thousand air troops. They had already lost over two hundred pilots. Adding in the injured, nearly half of them had left the front. In many cases, it was unclear if they would be able to return.

Still, they were putting in the effort to maintain their fighting force. The Air Ministry had managed to replenish the personnel who left the front with the young ones stolen from Habergram in Intelligence.

But…all they had was a head count. It would be impossible to expect the combat ability of pilots who completed their training before war began from the ones educated on an urgent basis.

“Excuse me, but may I? These are battles to defend the airspace over the mainland. Anyone who gets hit should be able to land and then go back up again. Doesn’t this loss rate seem a bit strange?”

The response to the question was more cause for headaches.

“There are two problems.”


“First, even if they get hit, the pilots are loath to use their parachutes.”

“…Why is that?”

“The other day, a few imperial aerial mages landed. Do you remember that?”

“Right, it was a special unit that came in to rescue some prisoners or something, I believe?”

Most of the people attending the meeting weren’t aware of it, but General Habergram and a few others knew that the monsters who conducted the raid were the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion.

They were a unit that reported directly to the Imperial Army General Staff.

Why would they send such a valuable unit in on a rescue mission? And why have such a trump card, identified as belonging to the General Staff, deployed on the western front at all, even for an aerial mage battle?

For a time, the various Commonwealth agencies debated the questions…but now they knew the answers.

“The police engaged the enemy soldiers who came down. This information was passed around and transformed into a rumor that enemy soldiers came down. Then it was reported multiple times that they were wearing our uniforms, and now mistaken attacks against our own ejected pilots won’t stop.”

In wartime, gossip spreads like germs.

So why didn’t the rumor that civilian police were attacked by an imperial special ops unit go around?

By the time they realized, the stories had spread like wildfire and the pubs around town were full of them.

So everyone could just see it: enemy soldiers raining down from the sky.

The significance of the precedent carved into the minds of the citizens was a terrible thing, but the Commonwealth Army didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“Additionally, ever since a voluntary pilot parachuted and was attacked and killed due to language issues, the pilots all say that if they get hit, they would rather die in the sky.”

“…Try to fix that urgently. It’s awfully backward.”

It was a tragedy that elicited sighs from everyone present.

A refugee who volunteered to fight for the Commonwealth, of all people, was attacked by a civilian in a patriotic frenzy the moment they touched down on Commonwealth soil.

Even graduates from public schools were getting beaten the moment they touched down and would have been in danger had they not provided identification. They couldn’t expect an increase in pilot morale if stories like that were going around.

By the time they found the jump in pilots dying in their aircraft, it was too late. It was such a dirty move that General Habergram felt personally tricked.

“So what’s the other problem?”

The prime minister pressed, and Habergram had a guess what the answer was.

“We’re short on maintenance troops and other behind-the-scenes staff. Production facilities have increased along with the rapid expansion of our air units, but…there are too many types of aircrafts, and the maintenance teams haven’t been expanded to keep up.”

The Air Ministry representatives protested their harsh reality one after the other. The miserable difficulties the Royal Air Force was facing were incredibly severe.

“As a result, it’s going to be hard to avoid lowering our rate of operation…”

“We’ve also received feedback from the air units. They’re saying they’re having too much trouble with engines lately. When they look with an impartial eye, there are maintenance problems, yes, but the primary issue is poor manufacturing.”

“It can’t be helped. We’re bending over backward to expand the production lines. We’re almost at the point where we’ll have to start using mobilized workers with little experience…”

Usually, any heated debate between officials would include a vague blame game. But this grumbling with lifeless voices and borderline careless looks that said, It isn’t my division’s fault?

It could only be called a crisis of low standards.

When he glanced at the seat of honor, the prime minister was sighing.

“Let’s assume our overseas colonies are our friends. Now then, we have many friends. And how about that devil we just signed the deal with? How much will they do for us?”

“I think it will be an extremely tough fight. The attaché we dispatched says that due to previous political troubles, the structure of the Federation Army is…far weaker than anticipated.”

“I’m sure they can’t be as bad as Dacia.”

“Well, no.”

The War Office representative replied that they weren’t that disappointing but in quite the vague way.

Well, of course he was vague.

Habergram himself had reported to the War Office on the Federation’s status. The results of the survey they’d performed on the army’s request were dreadful. Even an optimistic, or perhaps “extremely optimistic,” estimate said over half their officers lacked experience. The higher ranks of generals had completely collapsed due to years of purges.

Personnel was at a model loss.

The air and mage units that played such a critical role in modern combat had completely fallen apart due to a class struggle or some such.

Though they were being hastily reassembled, their gear was all terribly old.

As for land war weapons and artillery, they were keeping up to standard, but…since report after report said the ground troops were hopeless at cooperating with one another, the situation was grim.

Even if it wasn’t as wretched as the Principality of Dacia, Habergram had a thorough idea of how bad things were inside the Federation Army.

“But there’s no escaping a hard fight. After all, they aren’t in a position to leverage their numerical superiority.”

“…What a waste.”

“Even so, they’re taking on the brunt of the imperial forces.”

It was pointed out that the eastern front was becoming the main fighting ground.

Well, the Empire was anxious about its naval forces, and the Commonwealth was anxious about its ground forces… The Federation and the Empire were connected by land, so they clashed in a huge way, while the Commonwealth and the Empire continued to have aerial battles over the strait separating them.

Frankly, the Imperial Army was putting its emphasis on the eastern front.

“If we could shore them up, perhaps we could take some of the pressure of the aerial battles off.”

“How exactly?”

Prime Minister Churbull’s interest was piqued, but in response to his question, the army gave a response that would cause everyone besides itself to suffer.

“What about deploying an air unit? On top of opening up the northern route the Federation is hoping for, we could establish a joint transport route defense squad.”

“The navy strongly opposes the army’s suggestion.”

“The air force also declines. Do you not understand our mainland defense situation?”

It was no wonder; for the side receiving the advice, it must have been obnoxious.

That word strongly indicated they would not back down. What attitude from the navy and air force as they glare at the army!

“I beg your pardon, but may I ask why?”

In response to the disappointed army representative’s question, they left him high and dry.

“As you in the army are no doubt aware, creating a single chain of command often leads to trouble. We don’t need to go out of our way to work jointly,” the higher-ups in the navy spat as if it was the idea of a joint plan that they disagreed with.

Meanwhile, the air force representative silently took out his wallet and flipped it over. His performance, as he tapped the underside, showed that not a single, measly pence would fall out.

The meanings of both their actions were clear.

“Would it really be so hard to cooperate with a Federation unit?” Prime Minister Churbull interjected, unable to simply stand by.

“Our air force doesn’t have the wherewithal for such a venture.”

“To comment from the navy’s perspective, our doctrines and structures are too different. The officers serving there and the liaison officers say it’s a better bet currently to simply maintain some degree of contact.”

The air force didn’t have anyone to send.

The navy might have been able to scrape together a unit, but it had no intention of doing so. And it was no wonder, given the Federation Navy wasn’t even up to brown-water operations. The idea of abandoning their essential mainland defense duty for a supply mission in airspace under enemy control didn’t thrill them.

“Things just won’t go our way, huh?” someone murmured, and everyone took up their cigars in an attempt to ignore the awkward silence that ensued. To give the room in its purple haze a weather forecast, it was perpetually overcast like the Commonwealth sky in autumn.

They couldn’t help but feel gloomy.

“And? How about our dear colonists? Are they about ready to send us something besides voluntary forces?”

“That’s a definite no. Public opinion is firmly against entering the war.”

More than one annoyed tongue click rang out in the meeting room. It was just as those prideful Commonwealth men were reluctantly seeking help…

If the public was raging against providing support, biting down on a cigar wasn’t going to be enough to help them endure it.

“…Could the Empire be meddling in their opinion?”

“General Habergram, your response?”

At the facilitator’s question, all eyes fell on him. Everyone wanted to know the answer. So the situation is such that they’re casting off their official disinterest? They must really be expecting a lot out of the colonists.

Unfortunately, Habergram had only bad news for them.

“Honestly, the Empire’s influence is…not enough to be considered significant.”

That was an indirect way to put it.

Since he had no clear evidence, it was part speculation, but…there wasn’t even any sign that public opinion maneuvers in the Empire had a unified policy.

Just barely, perhaps. It was only the people in the embassies, as was usual for diplomatic outposts, fighting the publicity fight in the neutral countries. And it really came down to individual skill.

He didn’t get the sense that there was an organized propaganda campaign.

“Their local equivalent to the Empire’s Foreign Office is active. In that sense, we can’t say the Federation isn’t meddling at all, but their efforts can’t amount to much.”

“Why? Stealth intelligence operations aren’t unheard of. They’re a crafty lot. Couldn’t the Empire have been influencing public opinion all along?”

“Trying to 100 percent deny that would require the devil’s proof. But please recall the Empire’s traditional stance toward foreign parties. It isn’t the sort of nation that places a terrible amount of emphasis on public opinion. The people on the ground are probably the ones making the decisions.”

There was an “Ugh” several attendees must have stiffened at the mention of how awful the Empire was at diplomacy.

The emerging military power was a product of the modern age, having made innovative advances in many realms technological, manufacturing, economic, military, and so on.

But for some reason, or perhaps for that very reason, the Empire was incapable of grasping the subtleties of diplomacy.

“The imperial government’s outlook is pure idealism. We’re talking about people who believe that reason rules the world, you know! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were writing off the Unified States’ participation in the war because they couldn’t fathom the benefits of it.”

The arrogance to think This is how the world should be that was why large developing nations that hadn’t had a setback yet so often made a misstep.

But regardless of how authorities in the Unified States felt, it was true that public opinion was negative on intervening. In that sense, it was perhaps natural that the Empire would lower its guard. The imperial government’s greatest ally, then, was the will of the people.

“So this negativity is…the will of the people?”

“Yes, Mr. Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the people of the Unified States wish to keep their distance from war.”

He spoke dispassionately.

Giving bad news in an emotional way was unpleasant. Any upsetting news should be delivered as objectively as possible.

“How incredibly inconvenient. I’d really like to drag them into it…”

“I think for that, we’ll need some time. The Foreign Office and Media Ministry are currently drawing up a wartime propaganda plan. We’re aiming to hit the intelligentsia regardless of whether they’re from the left or right.”

“I hope allying ourselves with those devils has some benefits.”

Had they been thinking of the pros and cons of taking the Communists as allies? Several people nodded with vague comments, which conveyed to everyone how problematic Communism was.

But how much do they really understand? General Habergram had no choice but to critically shrug. The real problem with Communists was their ability to multiply and infiltrate. They’d ooze in like infantry through some hole or another, and before you knew it, there’d be a whole nest of them.

Well at that point, Habergram had to smile bitterly we can worry about all that after we win this war.

“…At any rate, we have a lot of problems right now. We must buy time. And to add to that, I don’t want to wear down our fighting force.”

“Then perhaps the northern route brought up earlier is a good idea after all.”

The prime minister and the facilitator brought the plan back around to building a supply line to the Federation. Considering how efficient sea routes were for transportation, it wasn’t a bad idea. But…that was with the caveat that the ground, sea, and air forces had to come up with the manpower to do it.

“Mr. Prime Minister, as we said”

“Wait.” Churbull held up a hand to quiet the navy representative and offered a proposal in a calm, informed tone. “I realize we’re in the extraordinarily trying situation of being tight on ships. And that’s precisely why…I want to propose adding civilian boats to the convoys.”

Civilian boats? It was a proposal that had everyone cocking their heads in spite of themselves. The waters in question were clearly dangerous. Insurance companies would definitely refuse the contracts.

It was hard to imagine any ships other than the ones they had already requisitioned would head for the northern route. At least, not normally…

“Allow me to confirm one point.” A member of the Foreign Office, who had until then remained silent, quietly spoke. With command of the Commonwealth specialty, triple-dealing diplomacy, his mind was the very definition of sharp. “Does that include ships from neutral countries?”

The question seemed inconspicuous, but its implications were major. If they added neutral nationality ships into the convoy…couldn’t a “grave accident” take place?

Which was why everyone waited for Prime Minister Churbull’s reply with bated breath. Does he want an accident like that to happen?

“Well, all I can say is that in the long run, it very well may. Of course, at the start, I intend to move forward with our own boats. But…it is possible that vessels will become scarce. It’s just difficult for me to answer a hypothetical question.”

“Ha-ha-ha. Yes, as you say, sir.”

His answer was ambiguous.

He didn’t deny it, but neither did he affirm it. Still, those who knew the ways of Whitehall understood what wasn’t said.

Since he didn’t deny it with a no, the prime minister would definitely do it if the need arose.

“Gentlemen, give me that mean laughter. This isn’t a public school hall. Let’s conduct this war seriously.”

The prime minister with his indirect remarks must have made up his mind to pursue raison d’état to the last. Hence, no one was surprised by the next thing he said.

“Now then, let’s review our policy. We’ll keep the air battles in the west to interceptions only. If we do that, then that many imperial soldiers can head to the eastern front, right? Meanwhile, our main goal will be to get the colonists to join our side.”

“If we take too long, the Federation may not be able to hold out.”

“We’ll deal with that if it comes to it. Ideally, they’ll knock each other out. Of course, the worst case would be if the Empire survived. So I want to wear them both down.”

The prime minister chuckled slightly; those comments had to be his real thoughts on the issue.

And yet, most of those present would probably support him unconditionally. If blood was going to be shed, better to have some other country’s youth do it than their own.

Above all, for the Commonwealth, having the irritating Empire and the equally irritating Communists take each other out would be absolutely fantastic.

“I have one suggestion. As a show of friendship with the Federation, let’s commit a Unified States voluntary unit and some marine mages to guard the northern route.”

“…What voluntary unit do you mean?”

“They’re from the Entente Alliance. I think both militarily and politically, as well as in terms of propaganda, dispatching some units would be wise.”

The Foreign Office had been rather quiet up until this point, but their explanation put weight on the propaganda war. Frankly, it was a proposal that completely ignored military practicality.

“What does the navy think?”

“We’re opposed.”


“The aim is fine. And it’s not that I don’t understand the objective. To be blunt, however, we’re lacking that most critical method.”

This wasn’t the sort of operation those in the field would happily risk their lives to carry out. With the frowns the navy representatives were wearing, it was impressive that they accepted the aim as valid at all.

“You’re saying we can’t send troops to guard the route?”

“We’re already noticeably short on escort vessels. If we’re asked to draw off any more, our maritime escort efforts are liable to fail.”


Even subjected to Prime Minister Churbull’s stern gaze and tone, the navy’s answer didn’t change.

There was no way it could change.

“Mr. Prime Minister, I’m sure you recall how it was during your days as First Lord of the Admiralty.”

“…If that’s what you’re talking about, then I remember it being possible to poach enough destroyers.”

“The fleet’s answer is that it’s not. The total number of destroyers is already having a hard time standing up to an increased rate of attrition, and if the main fleet is missing escorts, then…”

“Exactly. It could hinder the fleet or anti-sub combat.”

“There’s one thing I’d like to ask. The imperial submarines are having their way out there, but what are ours doing, taking a nap?”

“…With all due respect, there’s a difference between the Empire, a continental state, and us, a maritime state! Please take into account the fact that we depend on maritime trading routes and the Empire is already cut off from them!”

“If you understand that much, then you must know how precarious our trading routes are, right?”

The representative saw where the conversation was headed, but Prime Minister Churbull didn’t give him the time to cover up his mistake.

“To protect a trading route that important, we need destroyers. Until we can mass-produce them, pull them from the fleet. Use marine mages to help with anti-sub combat.”

The atmosphere was filled with the will radiating from the prime minister’s entire body. For a moment, the naval officers were nearly swallowed up by it, but then they all raised their voices to retort.

“Mr. Prime Minister! Anything but that!”

“Please rethink this! The fleet’s destroyers are the elite fighters in decisive fleet battles! If you go throwing them into an attrition battle, we’ll never be able to annihilate the enemy fleet!”

These were the voices of men who knew the sea. But they seemed to forget that they were on a hill.

“Shut up!”

One shout.

The argument was decided all too easily the moment the prime minister barked at the men from the navy and they failed to respond.

“The Commonwealth cannot last a single day without maritime trading routes!”

That was the fate of a maritime nation. They had to cross the water to survive. Everything their existence as a state required was found in foreign lands.

If they desired something, their only choice was to carry it across the sea.

Whether they were for or against it, the Commonwealth couldn’t exist apart from the sea.

“Isn’t that what the navy is for? If it’s not, then we might as well let our seawalls rot! Look at how strong it is! What enemy would dare challenge us? What do I care about a decisive fleet battle that may never happen?! Survive tomorrow! That’s our priority!”


There was no one who couldn’t sympathize with the shame of the bowing Sea Lords.

Their subordinates would curse them. The northern seas were rough. Of course, no one would be happy to have their unit broken up and committed to a place like that. Their hearts would probably remain set on a decisive fleet battle.

But once a major objective had been decided, the state had to carry out its big plan without delay.

“Can we move on? Under these conditions, how much of a force can the navy send to the northern route? Be aware that we have to expect some losses.”

“If we send a group of high-speed transport ships, we can limit the amount of time we spend in dangerous waters. And I think the Home Fleet can provide high-speed destroyers to escort them.”

“I want those transport ships to be able to cruise at eighteen knots minimum.”


“Do you know the attrition rate in our coastal waters?”

“Are you saying we should try to break through enemy-controlled waters with a sluggish convoy?!”

What they were debating was how to do it. Whether or not it was possible was no longer up for discussion.

“Isn’t that why there’s an escort?”

“The assumption in our coastal waters is that our fleet is nearby! If we’re crossing territory where the Imperial High Seas Fleet is active, that’s a different story!”

Unless the convoy was fast enough to outrun the enemy, they could be captured by a surface-level ship. Voices urging the risk was too high persisted in pointing out the problems.

“There’s a risk of getting captured by aircraft or mages either way, so wouldn’t a slower yet bigger convoy with more protection have a better chance of success?”

“Slow convoys are the ones supporting our country’s supply needs, you know!”

“Wait, wait, wait!”

…Even if the discussion had gotten a little off topic…

The Commonwealth had decided on a policy of opening up a northern route.

In that case… General Habergram became absorbed in thought. Certainly it’s not…a bad plan. But isn’t it almost too convenient for the Federation?

At a glance, the conclusion seemed to be in pursuit of the Commonwealth’s interests.

“Gentlemen, can we assume we’ve heard everyone’s opinions now?”

Everyone nodded yes…and they were probably glad to not have any objections. Unanimity was a harbinger of unity.

It was good news that made even an attendee like General Habergram smile at how bright prospects were. He wanted to think that things were going in a good direction. Which was exactly why he couldn’t quite accept it as the head of the intelligence agency, having been forced to endure such constant hardship.

“We’ve at least agreed that we’ll send a marine mage unit escort to the northern route along with the Unified States voluntary troops. So the only sticking point is the ships. Now, then…” Prime Minister Churbull puffed his cigar in silence…and waited to continue until everyone’s patience had just about run out. “I have an idea about one boat.”

The comment made Habergram “hmm.”

An idea about where to scrounge up some ships would have been understandable. Perhaps in that case he would have talked to someone in charge of shipping schedules in advance. But…a single boat?

That said, it was the prime minister speaking. Everyone politely squelched their doubts and waited for him to continue. Ohhh. General Habergram revised his assessment.

The navy representatives had all gone pale in the face; they seemed to have some idea what he had in mind.

“We can pack it full of cargo, and as a bonus, it won’t even need an escort. Right?” he asked the navy, and they were already panicking.

“P-p-please wait, Mr. Prime Minister!”

“Not that. Anything but that you mustn’t!”

You could say it was quite a spectacle, seeing naval officers, who usually prided themselves on being so on top of things, practically foaming at the mouth in agitation.

And their desperation only made their comical irritation funnier for some reason.

“It’s the conclusion I arrived at taking the scarcity of escort vessels you complained of into consideration.”

“But that one, that ship”

“We’re using the RMS Queen of Anjou. Make sure to relay that to Fleet Command.”

Habergram remembered that name.

It was the Commonwealth’s largest ocean liner.

In other words, the world’s largest cargo-passenger ship. And if he remembered correctly, the fastest cargo-passenger ship. Before the war, he knew it as the fastest luxury passenger ship in service.

He had heard it was requisitioned, but I see. Judging from how upset the navy is…it must be even handier than the rumors said.


“Choose your best marine mages for the escort. Don’t let her sink!”

After one murmured “Oh no,” the navy members felt silent and just stared reproachfully at the army members, who suddenly busied themselves with puffing on their cigars and began looking toward the ceiling where it was safe.

The air force officers seemed intent on surviving the moment with stone-faced expressions. Keen to not get mixed up in it, they plunged into an extremely specialized technical discussion of airplane engines.

The members of the Foreign Office and other government officials looked as they always did, like none of this had anything to do with them.

A danger zone like this is no place to linger. If I accidentally stay too long, the chances I get caught up in some needless trouble will spike. My best bet is to leave now… But just as General Habergram had decided to withdraw…

He noticed the voice of a young official beckoning him.

When he followed the call…he arrived before the one who had up until moments ago been locked in a furious exchange of opinions with the navy, or rather had been mocking them Prime Minister Churbull himself.

With a big smile on his face, the prime minister gave him a familiar clap on the shoulder. Most people would consider that an honor.

Such was the bliss of ignorance.

“Excuse the delay, Mr. Habergram. I’m sorry for the sudden invitation, but I’d be happy if I could join you for tea tomorrow at three o’clock. If that’s fine with you, I’d appreciate if you came to the prime minister’s residence around that time…”

“It would be my pleasure, sir.”

An invitation from the prime minister was a de facto order. Unless he had a tea party planned with the king, he would have to be with Prime Minister Churbull at three o’clock the next day.

“Very good. Then I’ll have my butler prepare. Is something on the light side fine with you?”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.”


The next day, Major General Habergram appeared at the appointed hour at the prime minister’s residence.

Along the way, he had looked at the drabness above. The meager sunlight was normal. It wasn’t so unusual for the sun to not peek out in the autumn sky.

He’d been raised in that climate from birth. He couldn’t complain. Sometimes he wanted to pop off to the Inner Sea and enjoy a beach vacation, but this was wartime.

Society and beaches were for after the war was over. He was practically used to the dull military-issue items and the world being dyed beige.

Surely even the institution of three o’clock tea couldn’t escape the scourge of war. Near the prime minister’s mansion, there were anti–air artillery positions, in light of the aerial combat, and a few dugouts; here and there, soldiers were having tea at their stations.

Compared to the principle of the thing, which was to take your time, relax, and chat, there was nothing sadder.

When he was led “Right this way” to a table in a corner of the prime minister’s residence, the buckets set here and there in case of fire reminded him they were at war.

“There you are. Take a seat.”

The prime minister offered him a chair, and the butler left to prepare their tea. Before the war, Habergram never would have dreamed he’d be sharing a table with Prime Minister Churbull.

Though he was honored to have such an opportunity, it brought him no joy. He felt awful because he knew it meant his fatherland was in trouble.

For example, the people around him. The service staff, with their crisp movements that practically embodied discipline, were pros, but…many of them were quite old. Even the youngest had to be over fifty.

It was no wonder, considering the army had snapped up most young men. At some point, everything they had taken for granted had become the past. Consciously noticing the passage of time always made him melancholy.

That the uniforms of the people bringing over the tea things were as impeccable as before was actually depressing.

“My apologies, but as we’re at war…”

Tea was served with the implication that this was all they could manage. Habergram was about to take the comment at face value when suddenly, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

A glimpse of silver polished to an unnatural beauty.

Silver tarnished so easily was it even possible to polish it so well? Considering how scarce labor was, he wasn’t sure if he should be impressed or disgusted.

So tea with porcelain and silver like the good old days? In wartime, at the prime minister’s residence when he and his people are under the pressure of leading the war?

“My butler is too picky. The tea is fairly good.”

“Considering the wartime distribution circumstances, I’d say it’s surprisingly good.”

The Assam tea he was prompted to drink wasn’t bad even for peacetime standards. Considering the commerce raids they were currently facing, you could say it was unexpectedly delightful.

“I’m sure my butler’s ideal is to serve only what is in its quality season. Of course, I’m not thrilled when we can’t get the good stuff and are forced to make substitutions, either.”

Discriminating taste, love of tradition, and that unflappable demeanor. Even if he was putting up a brave front, that he was displaying the Commonwealth’s traditional attitude was truly encouraging.

“I can’t deny that we in government have some serious work to do when it comes to ersatz products. The tea delay is unexpectedly severe. Can’t fight a war without tea.” The prime minister laughed, and General Habergram found himself smiling wryly.

Certainly, fighting a war without tea was out of the question. Anyone who encountered such horrible luck would surely find some somewhere. One good example was the intelligence officers sent to the southern continent. Despite the fact that they had been dispatched to a desert, they were apparently managing to get their tea one way or another.

Or to put it another way: They were able to find tea in a desert. Maybe they had the talent to perform even if he worked them a little harder.

“But I suppose we can’t spend our time chatting. Shall we get down to business? It’s just as you heard at the Committee of Commonwealth Defense meeting.”

Ahhh. Habergram realized he had been getting a bit too relaxed. He straightened up and got his ears ready to listen.

He wondered what in the world the prime minister had called him for. As the one responsible for Intelligence, he did report to the prime minister, but…this was the first time he had been invited in private for tea.

“We don’t have enough of anything. From daily necessities such as tea to, on the war front, destroyers, other ships, or even trustworthy, civilized ally countries.”

They really were forced to admit the Commonwealth was facing a crisis. And it was all because they hadn’t been able to stop the defeat of the Republic on the continent. They were stuck paying the cost of their intervention coming too late now by facing the powerful Empire without their ally.

“That’s the true state of things here in the Commonwealth. Although things have gotten a bit better than when I said in parliament that this was their best of times and our worst of times…”

“If things have gotten better and you’re still this upset, sir…”


Churbull offered a cigar case and said to take one. He still loves to smoke, I see. Habergram cracked a wry smile, but he wasn’t opposed himself.

When he gratefully accepted, he saw that it was the highest quality, as usual. So even in these troubled times, there are cigars around if you know where to look.

But even as he was smoking, the question remained. Why was I summoned? He couldn’t help but wonder as he enjoyed the fine cigar.

The topic jumped around, but…so much time had passed that he began to feel this was an awfully roundabout way to get down to business. That’s when it happened.

“Mr. Habergram, I’ll be straight with you. I don’t want to regret this deal with the Communists.”

“I see, sir.”

His intuition responded to Prime Minister Churbull’s sudden remark. So this is about the Communists!

He realized his throat was dry, but when he reached out for his cup and sipped the Assam tea, he couldn’t taste it.

“Has there been any progress in finding the mole plaguing Intelligence?”

“My apologies, but the investigation is still under way; we haven’t identified him. Since nothing seems to have been leaked recently, it’s possible the mole was one of the officers on loan from the army or navy.” Habergram himself was doubtful of this, but he went on. “The tricky thing is that we can’t rule out that he’s been converted into a sleeper. All we can do is keep managing our intelligence the best we can.”

He’d done a thorough check on his subordinates. To be sure, he wasn’t interested in suspecting his friends, but he knew that it was necessary, if unpleasant.

He had done all that.

He thought for sure that he would be able to identify the barefaced villain soon enough…but so far they had come up with a fat lot of nothing.

It had been suggested that perhaps the mole was one of the officers on loan, but…without evidence to back it up, that seemed like wishful thinking.

For the sleeper, not being suspected anymore would be a big win. It wouldn’t do for Habergram and his men to lower their guard just like that, which made the whole ordeal especially rough.

Hence, as head of Intelligence, General Habergram made an official apology.

“In conclusion, all I can do is apologize once more. The fact is, we’re still investigating.”

“…About that.”

“Yes, Mr. Prime Minister?”

I’ll content myself with being scolded. Even if he’s harsh with me, I’m in no position to argue. Habergram braced himself.

“There’s a possibility it’s the Federation intelligence agency.”

Which was why that revelation was completely unexpected.

It was only due to his long years of self-control and discipline that he didn’t immediately ask, “What?!” The conclusion his brain just barely managed to reach hinted at the truth that the mole was… Wait a minute why does the prime minister know this?

“…What do you mean?”

“You’re familiar with their Commissariat for Internal Affairs, I’m sure? You probably know more about them than I do, but at any rate, they’ve come forward with a proposal to halt all espionage activity on each other.”

The surprise rendered him speechless.

Should I ask, So? Or should I wonder, Why? Both of them seemed appropriate and yet not.

“So you really made a deal with the devil…”

“We can think of it as a signal. Anyhow! Their head of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, Loria, said as their representative that they want to have a working-level meeting about exchanging intelligence and combating the Empire together.”

I see. It made sense.

Frankly, the idea that he, from the Commonwealth, would be able to meet with people from Federation Intelligence was a revolution on a Copernican scale.

This was what it meant to be utterly astonished.

It made him keenly aware that the paradoxical adage of the intelligence world the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain was the truth.

“Is it an official invite?”

“Of course. And it came with the pledge to void all past warrants of arrest and guilty verdicts at trials in absentia for intelligence agents!”


Should I say that’s encouraging? Will we be fools for believing a guarantee from the Communist Party’s secret police? Or should we be stunned by their sincerity?

The choices were so extreme.

“Mr. Habergram, depending on how the arrangements turn out, I’d like to have you do the meeting.”

“Understood. Say the word, and I’ll take a man and be off immediately, sir.”

Hesitation was pointless.

If he was told to go, he could only go and do his best.

“Very good. If it suits you, how about using the RMS Queen of Anjou? We’re still settling the exact date with the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, but once things are arranged, we’re planning an unofficial exchange of personnel, as well.”

“It would be a lie if I said I wouldn’t be ashamed to release bloody traitors, treasonous bastards, and Communists, but…,” Habergram continued.

On his face was an expression different from the stiff, nearly inhuman mask he had worn up until now. Out in the world, people would no doubt describe it as relief, acceptance, or perhaps joy.

“I can’t complain if we can take back our people from those Communist assassins.”

His colleagues, so worthy of respect. Once they were imprisoned, there had been no news. The Commonwealth’s intelligence agency had no illusions about how gentlemanly the Communists were.

The pro-Communist-leaning academics couldn’t seem to get it through their heads, but…the Commissariat for Internal Affairs was incredibly harsh even on its own people. If he could get his colleagues imprisoned by that band of sadists back alive…

It was enough to make even the top of the intelligence agency, dispassionate by necessity, feel like cracking a smile. After winter came spring. If you knew the peaceful days would return after the hard times, why would you neglect preparations for making it through the winter?

“It would be even more perfect if we could offer the returnees first-class accommodations.”

He had read the fate of captured intelligence agents in reports. It was what people meant when they said, “Worse than you could ever imagine.”

Since they were full of top secret intel, the reports couldn’t be made public. But if they could be, the absurd debate about how cruel humans could be would be put to rest.

The answer? Infinitely.

So then, what tortures, what suffering, had they endured? Even the thought of his colleagues’ fate brought tears to his eyes.

“Of course, we’ll want to have plenty of champagne and wine. We may need beer by the barrel.”

Banter to mask the awkwardness. Better to flash an invincible smile than tearfully whimper. That had to be why they were joking.

“Ha-ha-ha, the hospitality of stiff drinks? I’d request cigars myself, but booze is also much appreciated. Excuse the joke I suppose first-class rooms are impossible.”

Habergram was fully aware of the navy’s ship shortage. He didn’t even have to be told which was why he bobbed his head and apologized for having the prime minister go along with his silliness.

“The RMS Queen of Anjou has been fully outfitted as a military transport ship. The luxury rooms were probably all removed to make spaces to carry cargo and soldiers.”

“Well, that’s got to be better than a Federation concentration camp. If it was too opulent, they’d die from shock, so that’s probably just right.”

Drinks from their homeland, cigars from their homeland, and their countrymen. Even a token gesture was enough.

Even if they couldn’t put their feelings into words, they would mourn and grieve over their fallen friends and silently toss their glasses. Their friendship was strong enough that the gestures would convey all they needed.

Habergram tended to get sentimental about such things but decided to give himself the whip this time.

“Allow me to return to our earlier conversation. Regarding the release of the agents we’re well, technically speaking, my anti-espionage unit is holding…”

His reason for refocusing the conversation on the task at hand was simple.

Even if it was in your hand, a victory wasn’t yours until you’d grabbed it.

How much better was it to laugh off excess caution after the fact than to enjoy a short-lived happiness? To intelligence officers, especially those in the Commonwealth, who had experienced a string of errors, it was self-evident.

“Basically, I think they should all be released. We can consider hiding some. Really, I’d like to send a few back as double agents…”

Sending enemy spies back to their home country as double agents was a plan that anyone involved in espionage dreamed about.

But Habergram understood the situation as soon as he heard Prime Minister Churbull trail off in a pained tone.

“But we’re strictly forbidden from causing political trouble.”

“Exactly. We’ve got to think long-term.”

It was one of the annoying things about diplomacy and politics, the issue of what was permissible with ally countries. Even if it was only a formality, as long as the Commonwealth and the Federation were on the same side, that would have to be taken into account.

The two countries may not have been friends, but they were in the same boat. They were only serving the anti-Empire cause in a delicate balance. You could venture to say that the Commonwealth and Federation actually harbored deep mistrust of each other. It wasn’t a good idea to fan smoldering suspicions.

And it made sense that this would require some self-restraint. More than anything, the Federation’s people were probably thinking the same thing.

There was no way they wouldn’t grill their released agents upon their return.

“Understood. I’ll make sure my subordinates are aware as well. There’s just one problem.”

For now, it was best to refrain, but there was one thing Habergram needed to confirm.

It was an extremely simple matter.

He had just been instructed not to send in double agents.

So here was the problem.

“There are some agents who have been cooperating with us for some time. What should we do about them?”

What should they do with the cooperators they had already obtained?

“I’ll leave that up to you. Just keep us out of trouble.”

“As usual, then. Understood, sir.”

He was given a free hand to deal with them how he wished.

“Thank you for the terrifically good tea. Oh, when do you think we’ll be able to board the RMS Queen of Anjou?”

“We’re thinking after it’s made two or three trips back and forth.”

“Understood. Then if you’ll excuse me, sir.”


In the lifeless office of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, Commissar Loria was dispassionately approving documents. He had a lot of work to do, since they were at war.

He was undeniably busy, but…the content of the work was different from before the war started.

Stamp. The papers he was placing his seal on were documents for releases.

“Comrade Commissar, are you sure about this?”

“You mean about sharing intelligence with the Commonwealth? Or about the unofficial personnel exchange we’re doing simultaneously?”

The hands of the Federation’s Communist Party were nominally white ones that proudly shook the hands of the people.

It was a huge lie, but that was their official line.

Logically speaking, secret police and the like shouldn’t exist in Communist states. Thus, it followed that the secret police couldn’t be restraining Commonwealth agents who had infiltrated the Federation.

If there were any, they could insist it had to be some kind of “mistake.” So he had been able to sound out the Commonwealth off the record. They would exchange prisoners to “resolve the issue plaguing both countries’ immigration bureaus.”

Basically, there was no admittance of wrongdoing, just the peaceful message that they wanted to make a deal.

The Commonwealth’s reaction was quite favorable. Negotiations were proceeding smoothly, and Loria, who had planned everything, had high expectations of the outcome.

If there was any problem, it was the idiots in front of him.

“Setting aside the former, exchanging prisoners might be”

Loria glared in contempt at the dissatisfied-seeming official and pressed his point. “Listen. All we’re saying is that there were unfortunate mistakes made on both sides.”

Officially, they should make it so there had never been any hostility between them.

As long as it wasn’t made public, reality was to be minimized, treated as a trivial thing one could shut one’s eyes against, and yet…

“B-but they’re prisoners!”

“Comrade, they are not prisoners.”

“We caught them!” How obstinate these fools are, hung up on their achievements!

“We didn’t take any prisoners, and neither did we get any taken. Look.” He put a hand on the man’s shoulder and spoke in an unusually slow way to get it through his unreasonable head. “The immigration bureau made a mistake. Both of us are, in good faith, releasing people who were temporarily detained due to legal and technical factors. And in order to not make it into a whole ordeal, neither side will apologize.” He stared him right in the eyes as he spoke. The man’s gaze wanted to waver, but Loria pinned it down to observe his reaction and said, “So we’re simply exchanging people who were given trouble. What’s the problem with that?”

If the man couldn’t read between the lines, it wasn’t his fault. The problem was that a person incapable of picking up the subtleties that accompanied secrets and diplomacy worked in a department of secrets.

Of course, people with imprudent mouths would also need literal zippers, then.

“…Understood, Comrade Commissar. So should we also stop illegally spying on the Commonwealth?”

Luckily, the man wasn’t too dense.

Good. Loria smiled.

“Yes, keep it to hiding sleepers. Tell the handlers to be cautious when making contact, too.”

“Yes, sir.”

If he’s hanging on by the skin of his teeth like this, he must have some promise. People who can recognize a crisis for a crisis are capable of living long lives.

And they’re pretty handy, too.

Now, then, Loria thought with a smile, gazing warmly at his subordinate. What can I have this former head of espionage in the Commonwealth do?

Frankly, Loria was no longer interested in the Commonwealth.

“I’ll put it plainly. For now, I don’t want us doing any illegal spying that could endanger the relationship between our two countries.”

“Then should we increase our intelligence-gathering efforts through normal diplomatic means?”

“Exactly. I don’t want to defeat the Commonwealth I want to cooperate with it.”

His personal view was that the Commonwealth was not a foothold to be conquered but a road to be peacefully used. A road that could be infiltrated in secret that led to everywhere else. That was what the Federation really hoped for out of the Commonwealth.

“It’s not that I’m making light of the grand old country. Its power is still alive and well in the form of its huge navy. Even its unchanging culture reveals institutional design supported by its history.”


“Rather than make an enemy of them, we should make use of them as an ally.”

But their fairy tales are garbage. They’re like sanitized myths. It was impossible for them to arouse any desire in him.

He had to say, his interest in the country had really just faded. Having come to his senses, he saw that a war of espionage against the Commonwealth…would result only in cons.

There was nothing appealing about it as the target of illegal spying.

“Also. Comrade, we need to change our image.”


“I want to allow the ones devoted to the ideals of Communism to keep having their illusions. In other words, I don’t want to do anything overly forceful.”

Communism was an idealistic doctrine.

The official dogma said the party couldn’t get its hands dirty. Everyone involved knew the reality, but constructing a facade had proven highly effective.

“…So you mean an image strategy?”

“Exactly. And I’m not just talking about with the Commonwealth. I want to focus on personality over competence for all our overseas officers. Whenever possible, choose an idealist who is loyal to the party. Someone who’s incompetent but a good person is perfect.”

Party members devoted to ideals frequently ended up causing trouble for the party.

One good example was the humanitarians.

Loria had had a lot of trouble from people opposed to the purges.

It was difficult to dispose of party members whom everyone agreed were pure, innocent, and devoted. People with nothing to feel guilty about were truly a pain although during a war, there were plenty of things you could do with them.

“…C-comrade, may I ask you something? Why are you so worried about our image?”

“Understand the way democracy works. The movers and shakers in the political world of the western nations are elites like us, but they’re subordinate to public opinion. There is far more merit in using legal means to get the masses on our side than breaking the law.”

Not that he intended to downplay the role of scheming. He was merely changing his approach. They needed to optimize their strategy for their circumstances.

People devoted to dazzling universal philosophy, goals, and principles wouldn’t be criticized. On the contrary, perhaps they would earn sympathy. Everyone admired integrity, after all.

“Idealists are perfect for dispatching. We have no use for them at home anyhow. So I’d like to have them spread a good image of our country abroad.”

Good people whom anyone would label as trustworthy.

Any foreigner with a friend like that from the Federation couldn’t have too horrible an impression of the country. If someone wary of Communism met an idealist as their first “real Communist” acquaintance, would they be able to maintain their hostility?

There was probably nothing harder to pull off than ordering good people of another country to hate good people from the Federation. After all, taking the long view, not hating them would be more beneficial.

It was extremely simple to build good relationships with fellow combatants in a war. Nothing brought people together more than fighting against a common enemy for a common purpose.

“Luckily, we’re at war with the world’s enemy, the Empire.”


Loria nearly snapped that it was obvious but instead declared, “This fight may very well set the party’s course for eternity. Failure will not be tolerated.”

A common enemy.

Even if a state had no perpetual enemies, it had current enemies. And the Federation’s current enemy was an isolated enemy. We’re the world’s mainstream. How could someone be too stupid to recognize the Federation’s current strategic position as a welcome change from when it used to be isolated itself?! He could only consider his subordinate hopeless. How thoughtless he is, staring blankly back at me.

Why is it always these carefree dimwits who end up in civil-military relations?!

The Commissariat for Internal Affairs needs crafty strategists, but we’re currently overrun by scum and sadists. I don’t really care about their character, but their ineptitude is incorrigible.

He began to despair that perhaps he should trade them out for the people in the gulag.

“War has no meaning unless you win and end it. Everyone knows that. But almost no one knows how to win. How stupid!”

“…Y-you may be right.”

“And a win, comrade, must be something we can accept. Which is why we must show the world we are good Federation citizens.”

A state had no eternal allies anyway. Only interests. But, thought Loria, doing calculations in his mind, why is it asking too much to be the winner’s friend who gets to sink his teeth into the fruit of victory with them?

The difference between Communism and capitalism was being passed over out of diplomatic necessity due to the Empire’s arrival as their enemy.

…So we should get as much out of that situation as we can. Loria had a hard time believing how only vaguely aware of that party officials were.

“Either way, we won’t be able to avoid casualties. So we should fulfill our responsibilities. How do we capitalize on the casualties we can’t avoid? That is what we need to figure out.”

For victory, the party would have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Judging by the piles of corpses on the front line, it felt like they were indifferent to human attrition.

The casualties probably needed to be incorporated into victory as a given condition. Rather than crying over the cost, they had to think how to best take advantage of it.

If the youth of their homeland were going to die, they needed to make their deaths as effective as possible.

“We’ll make them owe us a favor. We’ll have our nation’s youth die for a great cause.” Loria restated it in terms understandable even to the numbskull standing before him with a look of confusion. “We’ll make them martyrs.”

The nobility of an action was determined not by the result but by the thought.

How many people have praised stupidity as virtue in the context of history? Then it’s simple. Appeal not to logic but emotions and via the ultimate self-sacrifice that no one can disparage!

“We’ll man the forward-most line of freedom, peace, and humanity against imperialism! …And we’ll make sure no one abroad can condemn the Federation’s morality.”