6-25. Battle of Muno City (3)
Satou's here. A friend of mine who was at his wit's end with job-hunting got caught up in a suspicious seminar, supporting it until he was on the verge of financial disaster.
The history of brainwashing is old. It also happens in the parallel world, but the method is a bit different.
Thanks to Pochi, we've become closer to the baron family, and with Ossan's help, I'm checking various things with the baron, but...
"Then, you didn't issue order to collect congratulatory gifts from the people?"
"Of course. I've heard from the consul that this year we have bad harvest. If we do such things, the people would starve."
In fact, the people are abandoning the children and the elderly.
"Do you know that every village is selling their people to the extent that merchants even avoid them?"
"Fumu, I can't say that every village is prosperous, but we aren't collecting tax to the point that they would starve. And this year, in accordance to consul's suggestion, we should have had shared food to them though?"
The villagers that I've met are all thin, from the serf to the village head. I don't think that the village head is embezzling food.
"There was a girl who jumped out in front of our carriage today. The coachman said that carriages were not to be stopped even if it would kill the civilian who got ran over, is that true?"
"Unfortunately, that's the truth."
Oh, he's affirming it.
However, the baron's face turns gloomy. It totally doesn't look like an attitude of, "Commoners are garbage."
"Satou-sama, there's a reason for that. The year before the last, the carriage that my sister and me got on had crashed into a child. We immediately got off the carriage and went to help the child, but we were surrounded in an instant and almost kidnapped."
"Are you talking about the time we meet? Weren't the children and the people who surrounded you parts of thieves group called Muno Rebel and lurked in the city? It was the consul who told me later that they were thieves though."
"You were wonderful that time."
I'm ignoring the daughter and hero who start to flirt. Moreover, according to the daughter, the same situation happened again for five times afterward. The daughters had only directly involved in the same incident twice, the rest happened to the maids and high ranking officials. Particularly for the last incident involving a high-ranking official, his carriage was deliberately toppled by an attack from the side.
That's strange, although they might have been exterminated already, there is no one who's affiliated with organization called Muno Rebel in this whole city. Of course, since there are underworld people here, it's hard to judge if they're thieves by just looking at their Reward and Punishment, but there isn't anyone who's affiliated with [Thief].
"Is the immigration tax a suggestion from the consul too?"
"Actually, there were incidents where this territory's children and girls from villages got abducted and forced to become slaves in other territories. Per suggestion of the consul, it's decided to put heavy tax on people who aren't legal slave traders or don't have permit from the village head to prevent the crime."
So it was out of good will huh? Any noble wouldn't want their population decrease, so there's probably that utility aspect too.
"Come to think of it, I didn't see soldiers or knights on the gate?"
"Umu, we've received appeal from villagers and merchants about the increasing victims from thieves, so we've sortied the whole army to subjugate them. Since the consul has said that there'd be no problem even if the thieves attack if the gate is closed shut, I approved the plan."
Didn't he just said that thieves had attacked the carriage inside the city earlier.
Right now, there aren't even 10 soldiers inside the city. There's only person who is a knight. The remaining force is too few, even if the whole army go for subjugation. To be frank, it's unthinkable.
"Is it fine with the thieves who are hiding in the city?"
"It's fine since the consul has said that it's fine."
"Moreover, no matter how many thieves are attacking, I'll exterminate them with this holy sword."
The fake hero follows up the baron's words. After that, he begins to flirt with the young lady again, I ignore it.
The consul huh. He's quite trusted.
Hmm? Now that you mention it, the one who everyone calls [The Consul] could only mean that.
I search the consul on the map. For the whole territory, not just the city.
"If possible, I'd like to meet that consul-sama in person."
"But of course, he's just a bit busy now. He's working in a separate building next to this one. After he's finished with the job, he probably would show up his face."
The separate building huh, there's no consul there. That means, the one they call consul is most likely the demon.
I'll ask his name for the time being and check if he's in a jail or not.
"Everyone has been calling him the consul since awhile ago, but I'm wondering what is the name of the consul?"
"Fumu, what was it I wonder? I'm sorry, I always call him consul so I forget the name. It's one of those things taken with ages."
I try to ask the daughter.
"I should have called him with his name during my childhood, but I often call him consul these days, so I don't remember it."
"I'm sorry, I've always called him consul from the beginning, so I don't know."
The maids don't know either.
Situation like this is normally impossible. It'd be understandable if the one they're forgetting is a person with not much presence, but it's too unnatural that no one knows the name of a top administrative person.
And the strangest thing is--
I look at the people who have answered my questions.
--There's no one who thinks it's unnatural.
"Hmm? What's that?"
The fake hero looks at the opposite side of the balcony and asks a question.
There are a lot of doors as tall as a person leading to the balcony in this room, and they're all open. Since the room is at the top floor of a building on elevated ground, it should have been cold, but it seems that the air flow between the room and outside is blocked with magic called Air Curtain.
It's not only blocked, I wonder what's this strong feeling of being locked.
And, the view on the balcony presents the entire center street from the castle gate to the main gate straight unobstructed.
What the hero wanted to say is probably about the black shadow that look like people looking like grains gushing out at the central street.
Did something happen?
One of the maid says, "I will ask about it", and leaves the room.
From what I see on the map, about 10 skeletons have appeared at two graveyard sites each.
Of course, all the demon's split bodies are in the forest beside the one in the separate building.
I searched the city and found the culprit. There are people who can use [Ghost Magic] near the skeletons.
Since those people don't have abnormal status, they probably have been bribed by the demon who posed as the consul to cause uproars.
It seems that the skeletons are just goading the citizens, they don't kill them even though they're attacking. Yet, a lot of people have noticed the skeletons and they're running from them toward the main gate or the castle gate.
It probably can't be helped considering the history of this city, but there's no doubt that it's also because there are certain people who are leading them among the people.
The others are also coming to the balcony as if lured by the hero.
Next, we are also going to follow the others to the balcony.
Arisa is pulling my sleeves.
"Hey, don't you think that the consul is the one behind this?"
"I do. Incidentally, that guy is a demon."
"De, demon? Your source?"
Dang, I was lost in thought so I answered without thinking.
Well, it's fine.
"There is no consul in this castle. Instead, there's a level 1 split body of the demon."
"Level 1? That's impossible, the main body must be close by."
I might as well tell her the situation.
"The main body is in the forest near the city."
"The 1000-strong baron army was fighting with 3000 demi-goblins there, but they were annihilated due to them killing each other roused by the demon's mind magic. The other 10 Splitters are in the forest creating zombies. There are around 100 zombies marching toward Muno city in group. Furthermore, the ones hiding in the forest are turning the thieves and beasts into zombies."
It's been a while since I use that phrase.
I think I've told Arisa about the map and search... but maybe she has thought that it's only effective for hundreds of meters.
I didn't tell her that it could cover the whole territory since I didn't want her to guess that it's a unique skill.
Oops, I need to tell her a bit more. I convey the details about the demon in succession.
"Th, then, were you going to nonchalantly march into the place where there's a level 30 demon alone?"
Arisa raises her eyebrows and draws near me.
"No well, I'm already doing that, and the main body is in the forest right?"
"Did you forget about the skeleton guy back then? Splitter is split body right? What would you do if the main body has the ability to change place with the split body."
I intend to defeat it when that happens.
"Well, we have a holy sword for that time. Since there are the fake hero and his friends."
"If you're depending on such people, you should have brought Liza-san and the other along too, we could do something even if we're attacked."
"Demons are well versed in magic attack, so I'm worried that Liza and the other would get manipulated."
"Mou, didn't I say that rather than us slaves, you should prioritize yourself more!"
I pacify Arisa who's angry from her worry.
During time like this, I should avert the subject, and steer off the argument.
"Arisa, even if the demon is the mastermind, don't you think that everyone's condition is strange?"
"About that, it's most likely caused by the demon's mind magic."
"But, no one is suffering with abnormal status you know?"
"That's the part, that's the reason why mind magic is forbidden."
Come to think of it, that demon is the first thing I've seen which has mind magic since Arisa.
"If you repeatedly use mind magic like Trust, cognitive inhibition (Jamming), and common sense manipulation (Lurk) for a long time, it's possible to brainwash people."
"Let's see, if you use magic instilling [Crows are white] to people, eventually when you ask [What's the color of crows?], they'll answer [White]. Lies could become truth if you form easy to believe groundworks with magic. Though of course, there are individual differences."
Rather than fantasy, it's more like some kind of a new religion.
"Is there any way to undo it?"
"That would be difficult. It could be done if we spend our time patiently. It's impossible to remove it with magic in one blow."
It seems there are magic to cancel consciousness manipulation, but it looks like it's hard for magic that has distorted your sense.
Even though there seems to be a way to brainwash in reverse, it would take time.