Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi Chapter 373
–Third Person POV–
South Yuguria Delegation. On the Way Home.
「The attack on Hardlett was a failure. Nobody was able to escape.」
Wilhelmina didn’t bat an eyelid at Zaphnes’s report.
「Did they say anything?」
Wilhelmina asks without spilling a drop of the liquid in her glass.
「No, Hardlett did not inform the king. I’m watching out for hidden spies as well, but it seems he hasn’t dispatched an express messenger from the capital or his territory and plans to head home on schedule. There is nothing to comment about aside from the road management official running around crying.」
「He doesn’t intend on causing a fuss. He isn’t hastening his pace either, meaning he doesn’t suspect the Goldonian king……」
Wilhelmina smiles cynically and lets out a small sigh.
「The assassination failed, the several spies who infiltrated after much trouble were all wiped out…… how terrible.」
Zaphnes leave the final report on the table and pours alcohol into a glass.
With all that was said, he didn’t look particularly upset.
To begin with, Zaphnes is a soldier who fights on the battlefield, not somebody who is skilled at or likes scheming.
「Hardlett’s inhuman strength is a well-known fact to everybody. It won’t be easy to take him down.」
「The real goal is to create friction between him and the king, no? That isn’t going too well either.」
「That is unfortunate. I was expecting half of it to work.」
Zaphnes pours more alcohol for himself after emptying the glass.
Negotiations and further planning were also finished. There is no more work to be done.
「Everyone recognizes his strength, but I wonder if it’s the same for his mind. Maybe it would be better to use simpler methods? He might not realize tricks with gold or documents.」
「In my eyes, I’ve already made it quite simple. Any more than that and it will be too obvious. Even if Hardlett is an idiot like the rumors say, those around him would notice it.」
Wilhelmina ends that conversation there and changes the topic of discussion as if something came to her mind.
「That slightly stupid-looking man by Hardlett’s side, have you found out about his background?」
「If I remember, it should be…… here. His name is Tristan, someone who travels along with Hardlett for military affairs as somewhat of a close aide. He is also entrusted with a squad in battle. The details are here.」
Wilhelmina’s eyes narrow as she skims the document.
「Do you have any personal records of him beyond this?」
「He’s a commoner born from a small village in the south. As you would expect, it’s hard to go further.」
It wasn’t because the information was hidden and he didn’t want to look.
There was just no way to investigate the genealogy and family of a commoner from a small village.
「There’s no meaning to examine his birthplace and relatives anyway.」
Zaphnes sighs and then continues.
「As you ordered, I looked into those around Hardlett and it is, in some ways, quite amazing. The only one with status under his command is Baroness Hyuutia. The rest are all mysterious people with unknown origins.」
An amused laughter rings out.
「Maybe he just picked his subordinates from a random village? You have his legal wife whose background is unknown, a mix of noble daughters and native commoners as his concubines, and most recently he’s been seen together with an Empire-born woman with wheat-colored skin. Anyways, I’ve never seen such a lascivious man. He has too many women around him to keep track of.」
Wilhelmina doesn’t entertain or laugh at Zaphnes’s joking remark.
「If that’s true then maybe I should find a subordinate in that village.」
Zaphnes’s laughter fades away and he awkwardly clears his throat.
Wilhelmina only moves her eyes to look at him.
「Hardlett’s subordinates are all skilled. If not, I would not need to use my head to deal with the likes of him. It’s hard to believe he’s anywhere near incompetent if he’s able to gather subordinates to that extent.」
「……it might purely be good luck.」
Zaphnes offers a dubious possibility.
「That would truly be problematic. There is a way to deal with intelligent individuals and excellent strategists. If a person is lucky, there’s really nothing that can be done.」
「…… is that how it is…… hmmm.」
Wilhelmina goes on, ignoring Zaphnes who mutters with a lingering attachment to the unsolved issue.
「Hardlett is more formidable than expected, meanwhile Goldonia is weaker than expected. If our preliminary arrangements stack up, we can stir things up more…… I’m just not sure whether time will be on our side.」
Wilhelmina’s cheek lifts up slightly.
「Let’s shake things up and make certain of it. We’ll proceed depending on the reaction.」
「That’s quick…… the reorganization of the army is not perfect. Give me a little time.」
「You have two weeks. Armies who can’t move by then have no value.」
「You’re strict as usual.」
Zaphnes smiles wryly and starts writing up a decree, which Wilhelmina helps amend from the side.
「It’s not ‘war’, it’s a ‘training exercise’. Everyone is preparing to mobilize for a training exercise to improve the national defense.」
「An exercise, is it? Then what’s the exercise name?」
Wilhelmina looks out the window and stares blankly.
Countless buds of grass are starting to sprout up from the earth in Goldonia after winter and the scenery is gradually changing to look more like a vast grasslands.
「The name will be Green. I want to settle things while the grasslands remain green.」
The day when a storm arrives on the Central plains is soon approaching.
「By the way, there is something I have to tell you.」
「What is it, Zaphnes.」
「Hardlett may be pretty strong, but I’m also equally strong when holding a sword.」
「Hooh. Then if he comes before me, I’ll leave him to you and run away.」
「Being picked up by you as a defeated general with no place to go, I’m also lucky.」
「That might be true.」
「Back in the Empire, I was also popular with the ladies. I’m not inferior to Hardlett in that respect when the only thing he has going for him is a higher count.」
「Is that so?」
「In addition…… no, nevermind.」[1: Nat: I’m sure we all know what he was going to say. *wink. Everybody thinks they have a chance at winning in this area until they find out the truth.]
Sensing Wilhelmina lose interest, Zaphnes cuts his sentence short.
Rafen – Mansion.
「Is it really a good idea not to report to the capital?」
Celia is still concerned with the aftermath.
「We agreed that we wouldn’t report, right?」
I glance over at Tristan.
「Our witness is a vampire…… sure, we can gather a certain amount of evidence to back up what she said, but the king will only see us as trying hard to pick a fight. It’s better if we don’t act.」
With Tristan denying her and Leopolt also on his side, Celia growls in frustration.
There’s no use thinking about this or that after something has been decided.
「That aside, the governor has it rough.」
We said the attack on me was done by bandits.
It means that the fault lies with the governor managing the road.
Unable to tell the frantically apologizing governor the truth, I could only listen with a forced smile.
「You were actually thinking about Nonna’s boobs the whole time.」
Nonna complains, though she leans against me happily.
「In the end, you had a taste of that person’s wife, right?」
Hey Celia, don’t say anything unnecessary. Nonna’s expression disappeared.
There’s no truth in that statement.
If you really have to be accurate, I just got her to lick my dick a little. I didn’t cheat.
「Ooh, so big. It feels like I’ll suffocate.」
「Uuu…… such ugly tits.」
As I calm Nonna who rests her breasts on my head, Leopolt leaves the room.
Leopolt comes back a few minutes later and whispers to me, disregarding the clinging Nonna.
Nonna and my right, Leopolt on my left, what a strange combination.
「Margrave Zilgray, the governor general of Magrado, was just arrested on suspcion of participating the previous king’s attack.」
「That man tried to assassinate the king!?」
As I was about to move Nonna away from me, it leads Celia to shout loudly.
I see Peticheri behind the door as well.
She probably came running after learning the same information.
「Aahh, that’s trouble. I’m feeling sleepy, can I lie down?」
Someone kick Tristan.
Before he could be kicked, Nonna hurries to stand up and trips over Tristan’s leg.
While I support her body so she doesn’t fall, her heel digs into Tristan, making him writhe in pain.
「So Zilbrown went after the king. He seems like a guy who holds grudges so it’s not strange that he has one for a decision made in the past…… still, I thought he would come for me.」
I know I told him he would get harshly punished for the next time he tries something, though it’s still weird for him to attack the king.
「Hmm, I don’t understand.」
When I twist my head, my eyes meet with Peticheri’s and triggers a memory to revive.
It was the image of Peticheri’s tongue sticking out as she orgasms, which connects to Rebecca’s tight ass, her not-so-large breasts, and then her sweaty armpits.
Isn’t this issue the conspiracy that Rebecca told Erich?
I was told to keep it a secret so I didn’t tell anybody and somewhere along the way forgot about it completely.
Now that something happened, it should be fine to tell Leopolt though.
「Leopolt, come for a second.」
I set Nonna aside and pull Leopolt by the hand.
「Eh…… h-how come…… why did he leave me and take Leopolt……」
Nonna is astounded.
Don’t make it sound like I chose Leopolt over you.
Bringing Leopolt to the empty corridor, I tell him about the situation.
「I understand the circumstances. Let us move with that in mind.」
Leopolt’s expression did not change much.
「Next time, I would appreciate if you tell me as soon as you know. Otherwise I will be late to respond.」
I guess Leopolt is fairly angry.
「What could I do when Rebecca said it was top secret? There’s still a small chance of it leaking」
「In that case, Lord Hardlett should tell me and immediately forget everything you said. That way, you don’t have to worry about disclosing the information in the future.」
I see, that might work.
「We can’t change what has already happened. While I understand the aim of this plan, I don’t believe it will lead to a good result. I need to implement a countermeasure to that so I will be taking my leave here.」
「Oh, sure. I still have something to say though.」
It feels like he’s making a fool of me or maybe it’s my imagination.
「We will not say anything unnecessary and pass off as people not aware of what happened. I want Lord Hardlett to do that as well.」
Damn Leopolt, he plans to ignore me?
「Aegir-sama~…… how long are you going to talk with that man. Don’t tell me you’re actually hom――」
Nonna came to peek on us.
I’ll have to give her enough attention so she doesn’t worry needlessly.
Leopolt has left already.
One day, I’m going to show him how clever I am.
「I might want to try that game Myla and Celia often play together.」
That game which involves moving pieces on a board seems to require a lot of intelligence.
Leopolt doesn’t seem like the type of person to play games and if I get Celia to teach me, I’m sure I won’t lose.
「Fufufu, I can’t wait to see Leopolt’s face in frustration.」
I immediately get Celia to tell me the rules and test my newly acquired skills against Nonna, who was watching with me, in a three-game series―――― and I end up collapsing over the desk after brilliantly losing three straight times.
Thinking this could not be right, I challenged the sleepy Tristan and once again lost three times. The defeats were so one-sided that Celia felt really sad for me.
Thus, the plan to prove Leopolt wrong in a game was suspended, I ordered for Tristan’s dinner to be filled with peas and then I went to sleep in a huff.
A few days later, Leopolt’s prediction was right and Rebecca’s expected scenario did not play out.
Rebecca’s thinking is for Zil-whatever to be arrested as the mastermind, for the king’s heart to calm down, for the hostile intent to all those around to subside to nothing, and as a bonus also increase her own stock for having caught the mastermind…… that was how it was supposed to go.
Zil-so-and-so, as the Magrado Governor General, is enough of a big player to satisfy the king’s requirement, and with most of the power held by the Lieutenant General of the kingdom after causing the disturbance with me, there is not much of a problem if he suddenly vanishes.
He is truly a man who exists to be a sacrifice. However reality is not so simple.
According to Erich, after the king heard of that guy’s arrest, he couldn’t hide his fury and grabbed a whip so he could personally conduct the interrogation.
The combination of the king’s anger and the fate awaiting him after made that guy go insane, and he apparently offered up the names of his acquaintances indiscriminately.
Normally, one would think his words were nothing more than the ramblings of a madman, except the current state of the king who only has Rosario in mind could not calmly consider other possibilities.
Erich and Rebecca desperately tried to hold the king back, saying that only half the story was presented, but with the mastermind being a lie from the start, everyone who was named ended up being falsely accused.
As a result, the number of nobles the king had doubts about increased and the situation worsened.
Zil…… as the mastermind, was put in prison by the king, who started to execute that guy’s relatives and long-time subordinates in order to extract more information. Erich further writes how the king will soon expand his scope to the nobles named and I can practically hear his sigh through the paper.
The letter ended with a resentful complain about Rebecca, who in hindsight, only added fuel to the fire.
「It seems you were right.」
I hand the letter to Leopolt who is standing silently behind me.
After reading it, he promptly sets fire to the paper.
「I thought so. If I were to do it, I would have left the corpse of the mastermind and then have a servant or close aide explain the details after promising to let them go free. You don’t know what people can be capable of when cornered into a dangerous spot after all.」
Leopolt adds how he would get rid of the people he used by having them die from illness or by accident.
「If you told me beforehand, there might have been a way to deal with it, though it doesn’t matter now. I’ll have to revise the strategy revolving around South Yuguria. Quicker decisions will be needed in the future, so would it be alright if I reported everything to you after the fact?」
「Don’t make such a snide comment with no expression. As for the report, I’m fine with anything. Also, don’t agitate Celia or she’ll get upset.」
Then there was a knock on the door.
Coming into the room shortly after is Sebastian, the butler.
「Pardon me, master. An envoy of South Yuguria has arrived.」
Leopolt and I look at each other.
Oh, he’s a little surprised. I can tell because his face isn’t moving.
This envoy did not come to negotiate, but to give notice…… in other words, he was more of a messenger.
There were four points presented:
“A large scale training exercise will be held soon”
“The main purpose of the exercise is to unite the soldiers of Libatis, Altair and Vandolea, not to intimidate”
“Feel free to send an observer if you desire”
“A small token will be gifted to the Goldonian king and the Lord Hardlett as compensation for creating a ruckus in your territories”
「I will prepare for war.」
Leopolt declares right after the messenger leaves.
「Will it happen?」
「It will if the king makes a mistake. And I’m certain the king will make a mistake.」
Leopolt states definitively.
Tristan also comes to check what was going on.
「Alright, I’ll leave everything to you then. You can use Tristan freely.」
「Huh? I’m going to be used freely so suddenly?」
「That’s right. Go call Adolph.」
Leopolt addresses Adolph as soon as he runs in.
「War has become inevitable. Have the territory move based on plan 30 like we discussed before.」
「Plan 30…… an emergency plan that mobilizes everyone in the territory…… is it really necessary?」
Adolph looks at me with a distressed face.
Let’s ignore the fact that the two of them decided amongst themselves of an important plan without me, the feudal lord, because of Adolph’s hair fluttering off.
「Yes, it’s necessary. The kingdom is a mess. It will be pretty bad if we get attacked.」
Adolph lets out a sigh.
「……I understand. That means all the things I’ve carefully done until now will be blown away.」
I attempt to reassure Adolph as he slumps his shoulders.
「Don’t say that. If we lose and perish, then everything will be over. That’s why Leopolt and I will do our best to prevent that. I’m sure Tristan is also willing to throw his life away to protect the territory.」
「No, I don’t want to die. I’ll do as much work as I’m paid for and if I can’t do anything else, I’m running away.」
「You think you can forget the debt to Aegir-sama and leave!?」
「Uwaah! Celia-san, when did you get here!?」
Giving the bickering two a sidelong glance, I turn to Leopolt and ask.
「How likely is it for us to win?」
「South Yuguria roughly has 150 000 troops, probably close to 200 000 if they mobilize more. Considering their strength, we likely won’t win on our own.」
If he said it was a piece of cake, that would have put me at ease.
「If the royal army fights decently, it will be enough to hold on. In a war of attrition, the land will give an advantage and the highly productive Goldonia will gradually come out on top.」
The royal army is not weak.
To begin with, their condition should be better than my personal army.
In particular, Myla and Irijina have to recruit and teach mid-level commanders and below from within the territory, whereas the royal army can gather skilled individuals from all over the land and train them in an academy built especially for commanders.
「Yes, it depends on whether they can reasonably act. In this case, we need to gather all the armies and station ourselves on the southern border.」
「That will be difficult.」
The royal army is currently scattered all over the land in anticipation of rebellions by various suspected nobles.
It is wishful thinking that all of them would convene in the south, to say the least.
「The one to give that order is the king. What the “small gift” is will determine whether that happens or not.」
Without a doubt, the gift is aimed at Rosario rather than the king himself.
If she fancies the gift and smiles, the king will easily throw caution to the wind.
「This is all speculation.」
Tristan enters the conversation while holding his butt in pain.
Celia is next to him and she looks satisfied. She must have given him a good kicking.
「If the South Yuguria empire wanted to wage war, they have no reason to announce a training exercise and warn us about it. I’m thinking Empress Wilhelmina wants to find out exactly how weak Goldonia is. If the entire army swiftly deploys to the border, she’ll fake the exercise and end it without incident.」
「And what if the king is pleased with the gift and isn’t vigilant?」
Tristan’s shoulders drop when I ask that question.
「It will increase the kind of work I hate doing.」
He doesn’t say anymore than that.
「By the way, it was mentioned that a gift would be sent to me too, right?」
It’s a strange feeling to receive something from an opponent we’re preparing to go to war against, however it makes me more curious to what the gift is.
「About that matter, there are ten ladies at the entrance. They claim they are the gift and want to be treated as Lord Hardlett’s property.」
Sebastian unusually interjects.
Before I could finish listening to the whole story, my feet were already carrying me to the entrance.
My lower body moved on its own.
The three men behind me say something amongst themselves.
「I have been entrusted with the approval seal and correction seal. The military document is urgent, so it will be processed without passing Lord Hardlett.」
「This is a completely ultra vires act, but it can’t be helped on this occasion.」
「Instead of loitering around imprudently, it would be easier on us if he focused solely on playing with the women, right?」
「More girls…… more girls…… it looks like I have to carry out that plan after all.」
I hear Celia’s angry voice as well.
I’ll buy her a cake later to make up for it.
And I’m no idiot.
I know Wilhelmina is trying to drop my guard by sending me women.
「Unfortunately for her, both domestic affairs and military affairs are done without me, so taking me out of the equation doesn’t do anything.」
Wahaha, take that Wilhelmina.
「Well, that aside……」
I take out several letters from a pocket.
「Although it may be useless from the get-go, I’ll ask as much as I can.」
I return the letters in the pocket and head to the entrance.