Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi Chapter 363
When I stretch my body a little, Sekrit yawns emphatically, which then triggers Celia to stifle a yawn.
Myla, who normally interjects with a comment about how lax I am, is quietly taking a drink of water from her canteen.
「You can’t really help loosening up.」
We’ve crossed the Goldonia border and been walking for a while now.
It is unthinkable for enemies to chase us this far and nobody within Goldonia will attack us.
There’s no reason to hurry so we return to the capital at an easy pace.
「It has gone down, huh.」
We started with close to 20 000 soldiers and are left with less than 10 000.
The Seventh Division royal army especially has been reduced to a third of its original numbers.
Regardless of the injured we sent back home along the way, it is without doubt that we still suffered a tremendous amount of casualties.
It is enough to make the King and Erich angry.
「It’s not Aegir-sama’s fault! In that situation, nothing could be done without reinforcements! In fact, we’re able to come back with this much alive in large part because of Aegir-sama’s strength!」
Celia is on my side as usual.
「I’ve compiled the loss report. Please use it when you inform the Military Commissioner.」
As usual, Leopolt ruins the warm and fuzzy atmosphere.
I take Leopolt’s document and hand it off to Celia.
We still have some time before reaching the capital. I’ll think of an excuse for Erich by then.
Solana happened to be where my wandering eyes landed on.
Her cheeks turn red when she catches me watching.
How cute…… I’ll gobble her up sometime soon.
She felt slightly unworthy of being the only one to escape, however she was relieved when she noticed the other refugees.
There was also some incidental drama between Solana and Suzy when they met.
My eyes land on the bow cavalry girl this time.
As soon as I look at her, she blushes and starts breathing heavier.
Furthermore, her eyes become moist and she embraces her own body.
「Aah, chief…… so lovely…… too dreamy……」
Apparently, she fell in love with me after I saved her from danger.
I get caught up in the moment and make a striking expression.
Her face turns red like an apple and squirms restlessly.
She’s madly in love. If I said I wanted to see her body, she would certainly not hesitate to strip on the spot.
Oh right, there was something I wanted to say.
「We lost a lot of bow cavalry this battle. I’ll be meeting with the mountain nation leaders later so come with me.」
「Y-yes, of course……」
I give her ear a playful bite and blow softly into it.
She trembles and collapses to the ground, her face becoming slovenly.
「L-……let me go and change my underwear.」
「Hey now, doing obscenities in front of soldiers is not a very justice-like thing to do.」
Jim appears with his loud voice.
He’s smiling so I don’t think he’s seriously rebuking me.
「Is your wife alright?」
「She was a little shocked, but that’s where a husband comes in.」
I’m glad it was worth the effort, since we went through some hardship and Pochi also injured its face.
As a bonus, Solana was saved too.
「……Ahem, may I interrupt?」
Myla cuts into our conversation.
「What is it?」
When Jim allows it, Myla clears her throat once more before she speaks.
「……I have something I want to ask you again.」
Did something happen?
If we cause trouble for Jim, then it would make our future interactions more difficult.
Everybody goes quiet, their attention focused on the two individuals.
「We have different values than those who lived under a monarchy after all…… still, we’ll be in your care from now on, so I will do my best to improve in the areas you are not pleased with. Say what you want!」
「It’s nothing too big……」
Myla hesitates, then gathers courage to say what she has in mind.
「You and your wife…… your voices at night are too loud!」
I quickly support Celia before she falls off her horse.
「Day after day, all the way until dawn! I’m not telling you not to do it, but you could at least try to keep it down!」
Myla, who is red from embarrassment, is pretty cute when she yells.
Now that I think about it, Myla’s tent was close to Jim’s.
「Be considerate of me who has to hear it every night! What’s with the “Oh yes!” or the “Come on! Sweet heart”!? I’m not even able to be with Lord Hardlett due to his injury!」
Myla hounds Jim for an answer.
I’ll step away for a bit.
「Ooh, so you overheard our love voices…… I’m pretty sure Goldonia allows loving sex though. Aegir is pretty loud too, no?」
Stupid, don’t say anything unnecessary.
「Eh? I have to refrain from doing anything until Lord Hardlett’s injury heals…… that’s why I also……」
「Hahaha, he was making love and rocking the carriage quite a bit during the day. Such a grand display of love was enough to make me dumbfounded.」
Irijina couldn’t read the mood and tempted me, so I went along.
Then Sekrit overheard and made it a three-way.
Both of them have strong bodies and were pent up, meaning the sex would naturally be rough enough to shake the carriage.
Myla stares daggers at me.
I put some distance between us.
「After I told you so much not to do it!」
Celia goes around and cuts in.
「I can’t say I support what you’re doing with Pipi-dono and Marta-dono though. They’re so tiny that your sex feels like something a pervert would do.」
Eei, this guy really doesn’t know when to shut up.
That’s how you pay me back for saving you? Don’t make me steal your wife.
「Even Pipi and Marta…… we were listening to the doctor’s instructions and holding back this whole time.」
Celia and Myla press me.
「Don’t lie! You can speak properly!」
「Tonight I―― no, you’re not allowed any women until your injury heals!」
In the end, I was forbidden from embracing women until I completely recover.
「……hm? What’s that?」
「「Don’t try to change the topic.」」
I see some smoke rising in the distance.
I think that’s around the mansion of some noble where we got supplies from on the way to Libatis. Was there a fire or something?
One Week Later. Capital – Goldonia.
「Alright, we will return to the garrison!」
Commander Keith salutes and leaves.
Sorry, I forgot you were even here.
「Him and his army look somewhat unhappy.」
「Well of course they would.」
Despite escaping with their lives, it doesn’t get rid of the taste of countless defeats.
I take a rough look and see that the number of soldiers who have their complete set of equipment can be counted. Most of them are missing helmets, have torn their arm guards, and picked up swords from the enemy after losing their own.
「They were complaining about how Goldonia didn’t send reinforcements the whole way back, saying how they would have won if more troops came.」
My squad ultimately didn’t collapse once.
Nobody felt like they would lose irrespective of how many allies fell around them.
「I should give my excuse to Erich and the king.」
「Don’t say it to His Majesty.」
First is Erich.
I enter Erich’s office, bow so slightly it was almost unnoticeable, and then give my report.
My posture is straight and my expression is as unhappy as possible.
The silence lasts for a while.
Leopolt is staring at Erich just like I am.
Is he waiting until I say something?
Fufufu, I purposely had Celia wait outside the room.
Without anything pretty to look at, Erich must find it tough.
If I were him, I’d get annoyed after thirty seconds.
Erich flips through the report documents quietly, sighs and opens up his arms.
「I understand what you want to say. I’ll explain so please take a seat…… having you two stare makes me uneasy.」
After I sit down, a small smile emerges on Erich’s face.
「I’m sorry. You did well to come back. I was prepared to lose the seventh division. Most importantly, I’m glad you’re safe.」
Erich and I exchange a handshake.
This should be fine, I’ll get Celia to come back in and balance out Leopolt’s presence.
「Let’s get right to the issue at hand. To keep it simple, His Majesty has commanded for all the kingdom’s armies to mobilize.」
Looking closer, I see Erich is extremely fatigued and is running on fumes.
「Did something happen?」
「An attempted assassination on His Majesty.」
Wow, that kind of thing happened?
The king doesn’t have it easy either.
「――that is what’s being told in public, but the reality is different. His Majesty’s beloved Rosario was targeted…… apparently she was hurt quite badly. The king went mad with anger and intends to kill everyone related to the incident.」
I slam the desk and stand up abruptly.
I’m fine with the king being targeted. I can’t forgive anybody who would hurt a woman.
All the cowardly assassins need to be massacred.
「Other people would normally say “why go so far for a mere lover”―― you really are something different.」
Erich smiles wryly and continues.
「Well, I’m a man too. Besides, I have no intentions of protecting scum who would kill a woman to get to His Majesty. I have no qualms if those involved in the attack were all killed.」
That’s when Erich expresses his dilemma.
「However, His Majesty is going far beyond what is normal. ……here is the list of people who conspired in the plan and who His Majesty personally ordered to be subdued. Don’t leak this to anybody outside the room.」
I flip through the pages so that Celia can see.
Leopolt also shifts his position to get a better look.
「So many…… ah, this name belongs to somebody we met at a dinner party once. She argued with Nonna-san about something.」
「From individuals with important positions in the capital to lords of certain regions to underlings like tax collecting officials and royal guards, such a wide variety of people are listed. You can see why reinforcements couldn’t be sent, right?」
The king can’t only rely on the royal guards to catch all these people and actually the name of the royal guard captain is also listed here.
Many of them are influential and powerful people, so it isn’t wrong to ready the army.
There is one thing bothering me though.
「Isn’t it impossible for this number of people to have conspired in the plan? No matter how you look at it, this is too many.」
If all of them were conspiring, this would be more like an insurrection than a mere assassination.
How large was the scale of attack?
「It was a group of ten people, some who were clearly veteran mercenaries.」
「「No, no, no, it’s not what you’re thinking.」」
Celia’s voice overlaps with mine.
「This list of individuals is capable of hiring thousands of people. It’s hard to believe they came up with just ten.」
Celia nods enthusiastically.
Erich also nods.
「I agree. If all of them were accomplices then His Majesty would not be alive. ――don’t leak this either.」
Erich stares at us, making sure we absolutely won’t say anything before he clears his throat and continues.
「99% of everyone written here are innocent. They have no relation to this case whatsoever.」
I don’t get it. What’s the point of killing people who aren’t related?
「I told you, His Majesty’s anger is making him act irrationally. His Majesty intends to execute not only the attackers, but also their family, friends, acquaintances, and anybody he considers even a little bit suspicious. That’s where this huge list comes from.」
「That’s ridiculous. Is there anything that can be done?」
Killing those who hurt a woman is justified, killing those not connected is pointless.
Erich simply shakes his head.
「It’s no use. His Majesty is no longer willing to listen. You’ll understand when you see him.」
Erich declared that quite clearly.
Which means, there probably isn’t anything we can do.
「No, our names, the names of Myla-san’s family, and the names of Count Binbo and his friends aren’t there.」
I feel relieved after hearing that from Celia.
「So I’m sorry about what happened this time. I’m obviously going to praise you for return with the army. Regarding the losses, don’t worry. I don’t intend to speak on it. I know you’ve probably lost plenty of soldiers in your army too, but nothing will be done until this matter is finished.……」
Umumu, if I’m not getting anything then how can I reward the mountain nation?
I have to think about a solution.
Oh yeah, I have to tell Erich about South Yuguria.
「I want to speak about the South Yuguria army――」
Borrowing help from Leopolt and Celia, I explain how the South Yuguria army uses power and clever schemes to precisely fulfill its ambition of expanding its territory.
Erich occasionally asks questions and listens earnestly.
「I understand that South Yuguria is a bigger threat than expected. It’s just right now we are in no position to prepare for them…… the king is giving orders day and night after all.」
Erich smiles bitterly when Celia slumps in disappointment.
「You have made me aware of their use of wagons to move swiftly and their formidability. Simply having that knowledge will make a difference in how I deal with them. Good work.」
Erich retrieves an expensive-looking bag of cookies which emanates a fruity fragrance from within his desk.
A smile immediately returns to Celia’s face, although she quickly suppresses it.
「……I-I’m not a child, cookies are not a big deal.」
Erich and I smile at the same time.
I’ll take them, our journey home will be a long one and sweets will help.
「This is for you.」
A key? What is this a key to?
Erich whispers to me in a way Celia can’t hear.
「It’s the key to the house of one of my lovers. She’s someone with a high sex drive and can’t live without a man, you see. She’s willing to pull any man willing to entertain her. It’s normally my responsibility to attend to her needs, but as you can see I have my hands full.」
Is he saying what I think he is?
「You were extremely interested when I brought it up before…… if you like, please help yourself.」
I accept the key with both hands and clutch Erich’s hand tightly.
「…… I’m quite fond of this one so don’t completely take her for yourself. Keep things casual.」
「Yes, yes, of course!」
I just received a wonderful reward.
I’ll keep a secret from Celia and Myla.
「Alright, go for your audience. I warn you though that the king is not how he used to be. Pay careful attention and choose your words wisely or your head will fly in one breath. ……and do something about the bulge in your pants.」
I guess I can’t make the same excuse to the king.
「Hardlett, you’re back!」
As soon as I stepped into the room, the king welcomes me with a loud shout.
His clear and piercing voice has no trace of gloominess.
He doesn’t appear to have lost his senses like Erich described.
「Yes Your Majesty, I’ve just returned.」
A man hands him the report with Erich’s notes on it.
The king might have been partially responsible for various things, but the fact remains that the seventh division suffered major casualties and achieved nothing for it.
I was prepared for the king to say something regarding that, however he only took a quick glance at the document before putting it aside.
Somehow this kind of treatment doesn’t satisfy me, similar to how I feel when I’m nagged persistently about a certain topic.
The king, not particularly interested in the report, looks into my eyes.
「By the way, do you know anything about the attack on Rosario?」
Being asked so suddenly confused me a little.
I didn’t get any words of gratitude and it was like the Libatis war didn’t exist in his mind, which irritated me slightly.
Yet I can’t throw a tantrum like a child in this setting.
「Lord Radhalde provided me with a summary――」
The king immediately shakes his head and cuts me off.
「I don’t mean that. I’m asking whether you know anybody who conspired or cooperated with the attackers or anybody acting suspiciously. Or perhaps you planned this yourself……I want to know.」
What is the king saying?
I interpret it as a joke, but I would be smart to listen to Erich’s warning and answer seriously.
Besides, I’m getting a bad feeling.
「I apologize, I do not know anything. I have been abroad fighting as reinforcements for Libatis and as such I have not heard anything aside from passing remarks.」
The king stares into my eyes for a few seconds.
He didn’t seem to be briefly frightened or doubtful.
Rather, he looked stern and intellectual, reminiscent of how he initially was when he first became king.
While I’m not into men staring at me, I don’t have a guilty conscience, so it really doesn’t bother me.
It’s possible that I looked suspicious.
「Umu, I guess that’s true. You wouldn’t know anything.」
The king stands up after slapping his knee.
That gesture was done boldly and his voice was booming.
Everything reminded me of the king from before who was overflowing with energy.
No, something is off.
Despite his eyes, his voice and his gestures being grand, the aura he’s giving off is strange.
「I believe you should know after hearing it from Lord Radhalde that Goldonia is currently rampant with conspirator scum who injured my precious woman. You’re a womanizer as well, so you must be familiar with this feeling that churns your stomach, no?」
He is smiling even though he should be angry.
「Yes Your Majesty, there is no merit to leaving cowards who target helpless women alive.」
Those are my true feelings.
「Exactly! All the dirty criminals who are lower than livestock must be given cruel deaths beyond imagination. Of course that goes for their parents, siblings, and friends!」
The king places his hand on the sword at his hip, catches himself doing something unbecoming in the next moment, and then returns to his seat on the throne.
Hmm. Dismembering the criminals alive is fine, but killing those unrelated is of no use.
「I hold you in high regard. That’s why I want you to, after returning to Rafen, comply with my wishes and use your military prowess to exterminate all the traitors. After all, I am short-handed with so many of them running around.」
「Yes Your Majesty, at anytime.」
An eerie smile emerges on the king’s face and then he proceeds to go off on a tangent.
「In the past, the meat of that black beast you sent was a true delicacy. Rosario and I both enjoyed that steak……」
The king stops himself.
「That’s right…… I remember now. Chef Bolbord…… he ignored how Rosario wanted steak for dinner and served stew instead…… he must have hated Rosario…… so he plotted to attack her……」
In an instant, the king’s smile transformed into an angry frown.
「Bolbord is a traitor! Seize him right away!」
Without delay, royal guards answer the king’s angry shout and runs off to carry out his order.
No, that’s overkill no matter how you look at it.
The chef just made a small mistake and even if he hated Rosario, he wouldn’t transition to assassinating her so quickly.
Still, the ministers and close aides around him are simply looking down without saying a word.
「Sorry Hardlett! I must ascertain the capture of traitors, so we shall leave things here for now!」
A smile once again decorates the king’s face, one that has no trace of sadness.
I see what Erich means now.
This isn’t good. He is worse than before at listening to others’ advice.
Before parting, I ask the king one question.
「Your Majesty, do you have many people whom you suspect are traitors?」
I receive a prompt answer from the king.
「Hahaha, I am not full of doubt and mistrust like I was before. I do not suspect anyone anymore.」
What a surprising response.
「If I think an individual is wrong, then that individual is a traitor, if not then that individual is innocent. The word “suspect” no longer exists.」
Aah, so that’s the point he has gotten to.
No further words come out of my mouth and the audience ends with a final bow from me.
Something with wheels follows behind the king.
It is a pedestal with four steel walls forming a box and has around a hundred soldiers guarding it.
That is a strange object to see beside a king…… no, it would be a strange sight anywhere.
I leave a residential building with an indescribable feeling.
「Wait…… please, more…… do it until I break……」
I gently shake free from the woman tangled around my leg and kiss her.
I’m happy she enjoyed herself, but the intense sex we had made her hips give out and her pussy swollen.
Doing anymore will certainly break her.
If that happened, I wouldn’t know how to apologize to Erich.
「I’ll be waiting, so come whenever you want…… really, anytime is fine. Whether it’s in the middle of the night or at dawn, I’ll be waiting……」
When I exit the house, there is a black-painted carriage is waiting outside.
It clearly seems shady. Are assassins going to come out from it?
I put my hand on my Dual Crater just in case.
「Lord Hardlett, I will explain the situation to you later. For now, please get in.」
A young female appeared from inside the carriage.
I get in even though I don’t know what’s going on.
「……you’re not going to have any kind of doubt?」
「Well, you’re beautiful.」
The woman looks puzzled, though it doesn’t seem like he has bad intentions.
I have no idea where we’re going, but I’ll come along if I can touch that ass for the whole trip.
「Ooh, it’s Rebecca.」
I was taken to an ordinary house…… which is actually a disguise for a secret information officer base.
「You came without realizing? Well, I did use that girl to ensure that wouldn’t happen.」
How sad, Rebecca doesn’t show me a smile after such a long reunion.
Her face is tense and she doesn’t seem to be very relaxed in general.
「You are aware of the situation that His Majesty is in, right?」
That was enough for me to have a good grasp.
「His Majesty has lost his mind after Rosario got hurt. On His Majesty’s orders, I have already captured, interrogated and executed hundreds of people regardless of their proven innocence.」
Before I could say anything more, Rebecca goes on.
「This incident has made the king lose much of his trust in me. ……it can’t be considered absolute trust anymore. If I hesitate to follow his orders, the next person to be executed as a traitor will probably be me. Several information officers have already been executed for just that.」
「Yes, it’s quite crazy. That’s why I want to warn you to be extremely careful, as well as inform you of a certain conspiracy.」
Consulting me on conspiracies?
Is this a good idea? I have serious doubts.
「At this rate, Goldonia will truly become a mess. We must end this turmoil as quickly as possible. The thing is, His Majesty doesn’t listen to anybody…… the ringleaders have all been executed long ago.」
So the culprits were already captured.
「The name of the ringleaders’ group is “the nationalist faction” and they’re actually nothing more than an insignificant underground organization, except that worked against them. They were too small of an organization.」
According to Rebecca, those guys were made up of tax officials and low-grade military commanders.
「His Majesty couldn’t accept that. He figured there must be a more powerful mastermind pulling the strings.」
Is that how it is?
From the way the king was speaking, I thought it was something different…… it felt like a defiant presence.
I’m sure Rebecca is much more knowledgeable in conspiracies, so I’ll keep the thought to myself.
「That’s why a scapegoat is needed. A fabricated story will pin the title of mastermind on someone, then using the capture of that traitor, the entire group of traitors will be cleaned up, successfully closing the curtains on this incident.」
A pretty malicious plan.
Although it isn’t the most pleasant thing to hear, I’m a little curious as to who the sacrifice is.
「Military Commissioner Marquess Radhalde――」
I grab Rebecca by her shoulders.
Erich isn’t one of my women, however I owe him and more importantly he’s a nice guy.
Framing him for a crime he didn’t commit is something I won’t allow even if it’s Rebecca.
Now that I’ve heard it, I’m obligated to stop it.
If she isn’t willing to abandon the plan, I’ll push her down right now and fuck her until she says she’ll stop.
If I have to, I don’t mind being villified as a rapist.
「……fuh, you pass.」
Right when I was about to loosen Rebecca’s belt, she gives me a small smile.
Then she also pinches my hand hard.
「It isn’t Lord Radhalde we’re going to be setting up. Moreover, I don’t want to give you anymore information. It’ll get leaked.」
Wow, she trusts me so little. I’m so sad.
「Please tell Lord Radhalde of this. Not too long from now, suspicion will be placed on someone important, and while that individual might be innocent, this is all for the sake of the kingdom so I don’t want him to interfere. Lord Radhalde won’t go along if he hears it from an untrustworthy source or from me, but it’s different with you.」
Fumu, if that’s how it is I’ll gladly do it.
「Wouldn’t it be better if I told him a name to go along with the information?」
「Lord Hardhalde is wise. He will understand even without the name. ……besides, would it not ruin your mood if you know the name of a person who will be killed for a false charge?」
I guess that’s true.
I nod to show her I understand.
「This is a secret. Don’t tell anybody before or after it happens no matter what. Not to your wife, your subordinates or even that Celia-san.」
「Celia is a part of me……」
Celia betraying me is like my own hand betraying me, that’s how ridiculous the thought of it is.
「Your bottom half always betrays you! Anyways, don’t tell anybody aside from Lord Radhalde. I’m trusting you!」
Fine, it can’t be helped. I promised, so I won’t tell anyone.
「In exchange, I will give you a reward if the plan goes smoothly. What would you like――」
「Your body. That goes for your vagina obviously and everything else from the depths of your womb to your ass.」
In the end, she pinches my nose hard and I turn to leave the room while sniffling.
「Oh right. I forgot.」
「What is it?」
I forgot to tell the king about Jim and the others.
「I brought back members of congress and soldiers from Libatis as refugees. Letting them stay in the capital looks impossible so I plan to take them to Rafen with me, that’s why please make something up if they are likely to be discovered.」
I don’t think I forgot anything.
Let’s go home.
I think I hear Rebecca screaming.
「Argh, dropping such a bomb at the last moment!! Goshーーー!!」
–Third Person POV–
Side Story: Christoph’s Struggles 1
Christoph’s anguished cries echo in a gloomy underground room.
「……and then, it became like that.」
「Pfft! You are a real idiot, you know?」
Being crammed in a room where the sun doesn’t shine, Christoph’s degree of exhaustion grows.
「Ah, that looks tasty. Yes, that, speaking of tasty, you know cookies~」
「Hm, if you want it, eat all you want. ――ahahahaha! Why cookies of all things!?」
The interrogation has already lasted several hours and Christoph’s stamina is reaching its limits.
「Fumufumu, and then?」
「That acquaintance did this~」
The snacks and tea left on the table emphasized the cruelty of the interrogation even more.
「Nu, is it that time already? That’s it for today.」
「Aah, I’m so thirsty.」
Christoph’s cup is empty, but the torturer shows no mercy.
Tea was poured from a porcelain pot into the cup and the liquid was mercilessly poured into Christoph’s throat.
That was when the sound of tapping as someone descends the stairs can be heard.
「Not good, it’s time for the guy next door to be interrogated. Christoph, let out some screams.」
The female torturer grabs a whip and viciously lashes it at the floor several times.
Christoph yells after every whack of the whip.
It was a very terrifying sound.
「Fuuh, let’s leave it here for today. Go to sleep and recover your strength. An even more severe interrogation will await you tomorrow.」
「I’d like some booze tomorrow……」
The female torturer mercilessly crushes Cristoph’s only hope.
「Geez, only a little bit, you hear. Are you okay with wine?」
That was how Christoph’s harsh day ended.
「The one you’re in charge of is the only one not injured.」
「His body is pretty strong. Besides, purely injuring them is the work of a second-rate torturer. If they die, then nothing comes of it.」
「Isn’t he looking brighter day by day?」
「He’s surprisingly tough. He must be the type who gets full of energy when faced with adverse circumstances.」
「The guy next door says he can hear laughing.」
「Insults are more effective than torture against the body of that kind of guy. I’m really scorning him.」
The torture will continue tomorrow.
And so will Christoph’s fate.