Posting it a bit early (it is Sunday where I am xD) since I got a test to study to >_<
Wish me good luck ;-; It is tomorrow~
And enjoy the chapter! ^^
Chapter 2, Episode 11: Anticipation
The Lichtein territory, which lies on the southern part of the central continent, is a barren land covered by the Zigur Desert. However, many people have desired that land since ancient times.
The biggest reason for that, is the many beautiful oases which dot the Zigur Desert.
Spirits don’t approach oases in which people gather and live, but another way to look at it, is that they do approach oases as long as people are not there.
If one is able to get a hold of these oases, it may be possible for spirits to gather there and for that person to get their hands on spirit stones.
However, the neighboring countries have been unable to carelessly lay their hands on that land. This is because the Lichtein Dukedom had strong ties with the Grantz Grand Empire through their slave trade.
That was just until last month, but at the moment, you could say the relationship between the two countries has gone cold.
The dissatisfaction among the people towards the duke grows with each day, and just as this was happening, there was a revolt to emancipate the slaves.
The Dukedom of Lichtein, 50 sels (150 km) south of the capital Azbakal.
A liberation army of 2,000 calling for the emancipation of the slaves clashes with the duke’s army of 4,000.
This is the Imperial year 1023, July 19.
The area is stacked high with an immense number of corpses, and a deep red flow of blood dyes the golden dust-like sand.
The hot air is mixed with cheering. It is the emaciated slaves who raise a cry of victory.
The shabby looking slaves race to beat each other to the losers— to the corpses to steal their armor and swords and such.
Although the outcome has been decided, the fighting continues. The nobles and soldiers who think it a disgrace to surrender to slaves are still fighting.
But at this point, it is nothing but trivial resistance. This is because their commander had already taken his last breath.
A snake without its head can be brought down by any means. Without its fangs or poison, it is no different from a piece of rope.
The head of the snake being Duke Lichtein, and his head was in the hands of one large man.
The large man straddled atop a camel is not one of this continent. His skin is light purple, and he has a powerful face on which sweat drips down.
「How disappointing. When did the central continent become this weak? Were the stories of the 「Black Book」 handed down in Abyssion lies?」
The man, a member of a race called the Zorostras, sighs in disappointment.
As he looks around the area after shaking his head, the scene of Lichtein’s soldiers being killed off captures his attention.
He’s not a fan of mass killings, but they wouldn’t agree to surrender even when offered the opportunity to.
If they happened to gather forces somewhere later on and launch a surprise attack, nothing could be done about it. Considering the future, there was no choice but to kill them.
「What a foolish country, to place one who knows not a thing about the art of war at its helm. The people of a country unable to defeat a rebel army can not be called anything but misfortunate.」
The Duke’s army used the advantage of their numbers to disperse their forces and surround their enemy, but each of the divided forces were pretty much crushed.
「Even if they knew to split their forces, it looks like they did not know how to focus.」
It’s good that they had a strategy, but even when they saw it was disadvantageous, they were unable to come up with another plan.
All they did was rely on brute strength to try and push through.
Their downfall was underestimating their enemy simply because they were a rebel army.
「Battles can not be won with numbers alone, even if your opponent is a rebel army.」
After conveying this to the head in his grip, he called out to a guard.
「Have this head sent to the capital, along with a letter.」
After handing over the head, the large man pulled the reins of his camel and withdrew to headquarters.
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Imperial year 1023, July 21, the Fourth Imperial Army departs for the frontline — Two days earlier…
The Dukedom of Lichtein’s capital, Azkabar. Within the golden palace which could be said to be a symbol of power, nobles were bustling about in a flurry while whispering their discontent towards the duke.
They suffered a harsh loss the month before in which the eldest and third sons were lost. Furthermore, there is a man in the south who has united the slaves and mercenaries and using a former slave girl as the leader to run wild under the pretext of emancipation for the slaves, and they can do nothing about him.
No one took the initiative to set out to suppress them, but sensing that the rebel army was heading for the capital, the duke himself who had grown impatient set out with 2,000 camel cavalrymen, 1,000 light infantrymen, and 1,000 slave foot soldiers four days ago.
The golden palace— The hall in which the throne sits was packed with nobles with worried faces.
This was because the news of the outcome of the clash between the rebel army and the duke’s army was to arrive at any moment.
Then, a lone messenger came rushing in out of breath.
「Reporting! The duke’s army has been annihilated by the rebel army! Duke Lichtein has been killed in battle!」
Groans rose up from the nobles. This was because they were certain it would be news of victory.
One of the nobles stepped forward and approached the messenger.
His face was pale and he kept shaking his head side to side in disbelief.
「A-Absurd… You must be lying. That’s just impossible.」
He grabbed the shoulders of the messenger and drew his desperate face in.
It’s only natural that he is in disbelief. The rebel army which was running rampant in the south numbered less than 2,000.
In contrast, the duke’s army was a collection of the country’s most elite, and though it couldn’t be said that their morale was high due to last month’s loss, it should have been high enough with the duke leading them himself.
What’s more, the ones reinforcing the army were senior nobles with battle experience, so there shouldn’t have been any problems with the chain of command.
「What exactly happened?」
「The slave foot soldiers turned sides to the rebel army and every single one of the senior nobles were slain. The duke fought hard, but he was unable to prevail!」
The noble drew away from the messenger who was twisted in mortification, dropped to his knees, placed his forehead on the ground, and began to weep.
Some of the nobles around him even fainted. Some were muttering that the country was done for, while others were devising plans to flee.
Everyone surmised that the Lichtein Dukedom would soon fall to ruin, but there was one person who checked the despair spreading throughout the hall.
「Silence. We do not have time to be sad. We must discuss what we will do from here on out. We can not allow the rebel army to do as they please, now can we?」
Someone steps into the hall, and the gaze of all the nobles focus on him.
The man stopped walking momentarily, perhaps because he was withdrawing from the rude stares, but he soon began to walk along the red carpet.
His body is feeble and you can hardly say he looks sturdy. His pale face makes it seem like he may collapse at any moment.
This young man is the second son of Duke Lichtein’s house. No one wished for him to be an heir due to his weak constitution.
His name is Karl Olk Lichtein. He is a count.
Having walked into the heart of the group of nobles, Karl lift his arm which was white, even without the sun light, and pointed it towards the entrance.
「Besides, he has finally come.」
The one who haughtily entered the hall was Marquis Ranquil, the one who protects the northwestern border.
He laughs scornfully at the nobles who are in fear, and his attitude is a bit ill mannered.
This man will be 34 this year. He is a hero of the Lichtein Dukedom who drove away an attack by the neighboring country of Schteizen and their army of 30,000 two years ago.
However, although he is talented, because of his problematic character, he was sent away from the central government to protect the northwestern border.
Marquis Ranquil knelt without bowing, and looked up at Karl as his smile broadened.
「Though it is truly a shame that Duke Lichtein has passed, we do not have time to be sad. You must immediately take the title of duke, Count Karl.」
The nobles around him shout with rage at Marquis Ranquil, who brazenly started saying whatever he pleased as soon as he walked in.
「Who are you to decide that on your own, bastard?! Count Karl’s body is weak, and he is in no condition to—」
「What are you saying? Though I do not wish to speak ill of the departed— the duke was a man who thought of nothing but his own gains without consideration for the country, and he doled out rewards and punishment in accordance to the wishes of the senior nobles. Furthermore, the eldest son was a foolish man with a wild temperament and easily fell to the wiles of his enemies. And there was nothing special about the third son. He was merely a parasite.」
Marquis Ranquil added that he forgot the names of such foolish men.
The nobles’ faces turned red in anger as they shouted.
「You bastard! There’s a limit to how rude one can be!」
「Haha, all I did was state the truth. Besides, aren’t you all happy on the inside?」
「Wh-What did you say…?」
「Do I have to spell it all out for you? You should know what I mean.」
Many of the senior nobles, who could be said to be the cause of the country’s decline, had accompanied the duke and his army which left for the suppression.
The fact that they were now gone, meant the remaining nobles could supplant them.
(Though I won’t let you have your way.)
The time has finally come to normalize the country.
Even if the duke had not died, this country was fated to fall to ruin from a civil war.
The signs were there for a while now. The duke simply held it back by sheer force.
You could even say the birth of this rebel army was inevitable.
(But… it’s amazing that the situation has changed two, three times in this short period of time.)
The eldest and third sons who fell to cajolery fell in battle, and the duke was also slain by the rebel army.
Though no one says it out loud, they almost want to give the rebel army a reward for saving the country.
「However, perhaps it is a silver lining, but there is an outstanding member in the house of the duke. He loves the people, respects his soldiers, and is considerate of his subordinates. He is Lord Karl Olk Lichtein.」
After scratching his head as if embarrassed, Count Karl creates a fist against his chest.
「But as you can see, my body is weak. I do not know how long this body of mine will last. Can one such as myself unite the Lichtein Dukedom?」
Marquis Ranquil smiles and nods emphatically.
「Because I am not a doctor, I do not know much about the body, but in this age, you never know when you will die. In fact, it is as if those who are in good health are the ones who seem to be dying first.」
Both the eldest son with his high prospects and the robust duke died before the weak son.
Though it was ironic that his father and brothers died before him, Count Karl showed no anger, only a bitter face.
「Then maybe it’s not a bad idea for me to act as duke until my life gives out. But will the people accept me?」
「There is no need for such worries. If you are able to suppress the rebels who defeated the duke, the people will have no choice but to accept you.」
「Then I will become the duke after we suppress the rebels.」
After muttering how seriously he was taking this, Marquis Ranquil nodded placidly and looked around at the nobles.
「Now, it seems Lord Karl has made his decision. What will you all do?」
「If Lord Karl has decided, we have no choice. But how do you plan to face the rebel army who defeated the elite of our country?」
Those around the speaker voice their agreement.
He sneers at the nobles who seemed to have forgotten how to even think for themselves, disappointed in realizing that they’ve fallen so.
(I want to just kill them right now, but I can still use them. First, I have to wring out all the wealth they’ve accumulated.)
Marquis Ranquil shrugs his shoulders and opens his mouth to speak.
「There’s no need to face the rebel army head on necessarily.」
「Marquis Ranquil… can you explain in detail?」
Count Karl asks, to which Marquis Ranquil responds, 「please wait just a moment」.
Then, a man came running into the hall.
「Reporting! The Fourth Imperial Army is assembled at Fort Belk, and is believed to be preparing to assault this location.」
This report was what he was waiting for. This is when Marquis Ranquil was certain of victory.
A man from a foreign country who is said to have a unique military power which surpasses Lichtein.
His ingenuity, which the duke feigned respect for, was thinking up a number of strategies as he smiled pleased.
But that wasn’t the case for the other lords. The lion which reigns supreme on the central continent is coming for an attack.
A commotion stirs, and the hall fills with fear.
Marquis Ranquil raised his voice to reassure them.
「Calm yourselves! I have a plan!」
Hopeful gazes focus on Marquis Ranquil.
Marquis Ranquil was proficient in grabbing the hearts of people. Had there been any senior nobles present, they would have opposed him, but unfortunately, they had all accompanied the duke and fallen in battle.
And so, the only nobles left were the ones who ended up just waiting to see what would happen.
No one wants to lose their current position. And more so than that, they fear for their lives.
Which is why, even though they were voicing their discontent until a moment ago, they have no choice but to abide by Marquis Ranquil’s words.
With a smirk on his face, Marquis Ranquil spoke in a resounding voice.
「Lord Karl, what do you think of having the rebel army take care of themselves?」
「… Do you mean to have the rebel army clash with the Fourth Imperial Army?」
「That would be it. There is nothing difficult about it. The one leading the Fourth Imperial Army is the famed shadow general. He is nothing more than the dregs of Commander in Chief Loring. He is simply a general in name alone and is a mediocre leader.」
He fished through his breast pocket, took out a sheet of paper, and spread it out on the red carpet. It is a map of the Lichtein Dukedom.
「Now, what I would first like to request of the lords, is to assemble their soldiers from the forts and towns. We can not start anything without soldiers.」
After hearing this, the nobles rush out the hall to call for their private soldiers stationed in their own territories.
In a time like this, those who act first have more to gain. Those who are slow to act will end up with fewer rewards.
They understood this having dealt with the senior nobles. By acting quickly, they are trying to attract the interest of Count Karl.
Conversely, those who brought their soldiers but did not accompany the duke, and those who did not have soldiers to begin with, are to offer their wealth.
The hall emptied out in the blink of an eye and silence fell upon it.
The only ones left were two nobles and guards.
「Now, the nuisances have disappeared. I ask that what we are about to speak of not be leaked to anyone else.」
「This is a plan for an important victory. Are you ready?」
Marquis Ranquil throws a sharp gaze at Count Karl. He gulps, then nods silently.
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Imperial year 1023, July 26.
Hiro safely arrived in the border town of Links without incidence.
With his black clothes fluttering in the wind, Hiro hurries to Margrave Grinda’s mansion from the station— He arrives at the iron gate.
He had a jute bag on his back and a long pole at his side. The gatekeeper looked confused, but it seemed he recognized Hiro’s face, so he immediately opened the gate for him after greeting him.
But there’s no way he would forget this young boy with half his face covered by an eye patch so quickly. Hiro realized this after the gates were opened all the way.
Hiro stops after taking a few steps in. This was because the 「shiryu」 appeared right before him.
He thought it came to greet him, but it was acting strangely.
He felt that it somehow seemed to be in a bad mood. Hiro looks behind it with a puzzled look on his face.
「Oh, I’ve been waiting.」
Margrave Grinda was standing there with a kindly smile on his face.
Hiro can guess at why the 「shiryu」 is in a bad mood.
He may be in a bad mood because he was forcefully dragged here.
He’s probably mad for having been awoken early in the morning, too.
But there was one thing that’s even more surprising. The fact that Margrave Grinda is here.
「Were you waiting for me this early in the morning?」
It hasn’t even been an hour since sunrise.
And for starters, Hiro didn’t even tell him when he’d be arriving, so it’s only natural that he’s surprised.
Hiro feels extremely apologetic when he thinks about how long he might have been waiting
But Margrave Grinda shakes his head side to side telling him not to worry about it.
「No, no, a member of the Imperial family was coming, so it’s only natural. I even sent someone to the station to pick you up, but it seems you missed each other.」
「Thank you very much.」
Giving a wry smile to the grateful Hiro, Margrave Grinda fishes through his breast pocket, then takes out a letter.
It was one Hiro sent out with a Kelheit messenger.
「I’ve sent out instructions as you wrote in your letter. But was this alone enough?」
「Yes, it’s plenty. Thank you so much.」
「I’m going to feel awkward if you keep thanking me like that. You’re an Imperial prince now, so you should be telling me to be grateful to be receiving orders from you.」
「I don’t know if I can do that…」
Hiro replies with a stiff face, to which Margrave Grinda nods understandingly.
As if to tell him that this is precisely what makes Hiro Hiro, he pats his shoulders.
Hiro was a bit surprised to see Margrave Grinda so full of energy first thing in the morning.
Noticing this, Margrave Grinda scratched his head embarrassed.
「Ahh… sorry. There’s the fact that I was up all night too, but I was so happy that you were acknowledged as a descendant. Was I bit too over familiar? I may be charged of lese majeste if I act like this towards an Imperial prince.」
It’s probably Hiro’s fault that he stayed up all night.
Which is why he can’t say anything. And because Margrave Grinda is a good natured person, there’s no reason to be offended from having him pat his shoulders.
Though, if it were First Imperial Prince Schtobel, he probably would have been upset.
Silence falls between the two, so Hiro decides to change the subject.
「Has Liz set out for the frontline?」
「She did. A letter came just two days ago. She may already have entered Lichtein territory.」
「Then I’ll be excusing myself and…」
Margrave Grinda stopped Hiro in a fluster as he tried to straddle the 「shiryu」.
「Are you going without even eating breakfast?」
「Yes. There’s something bothering me, too…」
It was one of the items written in the letter from the emperor— The appearance of a Zorosta.
Although there are those who are called Zorostas on the central continent, it can’t be said that they are pure blooded.
The Revering Kingdom, which is located northeast of the Grantz Grand Empire, is a country of Zorostras, but they can’t be considered pure blooded.
So there’s no reason to specifically mention that a Zorosta had appeared.
In which case, there’s a high possibility that the Zorosta who appeared in the southern part of the Lichtein Dukedom is a pure blood.
He’s fought them before a 1,000 years ago for dominance on the central continent, so he knows their strength firsthand.
(Liz can probably handle him if he’s a regular Zorosta, but it’ll be dangerous if he has a magic stone.)
The Zorostas possess a mysterious power called magic.
There are those with weak magic powers, and those whose magic powers are unimaginable.
The way to distinguish between them, is to see whether or not there is a crystal somewhere on their body.
The magic powers which can not be contained within their body accumulate outside of it and crystallize.
Because it exhibits powers similar to that of a spirit stone, it has come to be known as a 「magic stone」.
If Liz happens to encounter one of these Zorostas, it isn’t difficult to imagine a dangerous situation.
He probably wasn’t trying to guess at what was on Hiro’s mind, but Margrave Grinda smiles wryly at his noble features.
「Then you should buy food provisions and water in town. When you take breaks along the way—」
As Margrave Grinda begins to fish through his breast pocket once more, Hiro called out to him and stopped him.
「It’s okay. I have food provisions and water in here.」
He says, as he twists his body around to show him the jute bag on his back.
「I see. Then be careful out there. I’ll be here waiting to hear good news.」
「I’ll be back.」
He turns his back to Margrave Grinda who is smiling like a mother would, straddles the 「shiryu」, and pulls on the reins. The 「shiryu」 jumps, steps firmly onto the earth, then runs off.
The mansion grows distant in an instant while strong winds struck his face and made his black clothes flutter behind him.