Chapter 4 – Punitive Force, Departing to the Front


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“Given that the harvest finished, the punitive force against Duke Nürnberg is going to depart at last, right?”

“Seems so.”

◆◇◆◇◆

Several months passed since Peter’s group came to the city of Sakart.
The season changed to autumn and it was time for harvesting the crops.
Finishing the harvest and tax collection, the emperor will finally lead the big army he prepared and invade the Nürnberg Dukedom.
Combined with the logistical support personnel, the punitive force amounts to 500,000 in total. Since it’s an overwhelmingly large army, the emperor probably feels quite confident. Advance parties seem to be departing the capital almost daily now.

“It looks like my elder brothers have departed first. Dressed up in sparkling armour and together with the high-ranking nobles following the emperor. After having been seen off by a great number of citizens, they probably feel like they have already won.” (Peter)

If they watch military forces led by extravagantly dressed nobles departing to the front every day, even the most cynical residents of the capital will believe the victory of the punitive force to be set in stone. As a matter of fact, the most reliable method to win in a war is to amass a bigger army than the enemy.
It’s quite normal for an ordinary person to think that they won’t lose if they see an imperial army of 500,000 soldiers.

“If you raise a big army, it will boost your chances of winning, but you can’t win with just that, right? Since Duke Nürnberg is ready and lying in wait for them, I wonder just how many of them will actually be able to come back home safely? Elise-san, seconds please.” (Peter)

“Here you are.” (Elise)

“Elise-san, you’re quite the chef, aren’t you? But, my Emera won’t lose to you in that regard. It’s a shame I’m so busy now, otherwise I’d get to enjoy my gorgeous wife’s cooking.” (Peter)

“I believe I won’t cook for you even in the future, and before that, I’m not your wife to begin with, Your Highness.” (Emera)

“That’s a talk for the future.” (Peter)

“Even later on, the possibility of that happening is zero.” (Emera)

Peter came to eat with us while bringing Emera and Mark along, but Emera’s attitude towards Peter is just as usual. Even so, because she’s energetically working for him as his retainer, she’s probably giving Peter a high evaluation as lord. On the other hand, Mark is silently eating his meal.
It’s odd… although he is just eating his stew, one can easily feel his competency through even the simplest of actions. It seems no wonder that even Takeomi-san can’t win.

“Mark-san, how about another helping?” (Elise)

“… Thank you.” (Mark)

When asked by Elise, he silently held out his empty stew plate; rather I feel it’s been a while since I heard this person talk… Amongst our group, the image prevails that he only talks once per month.

“Wow, that’s rare. For Mark to want a second helping…” (Peter)

“Is that so?”

“Mark’s really particular about the taste.” (Peter)

“Taste is important. The clarity of all of your five senses is also related to your sword skills.” (Haruka)

“Yeah, that idea. Mark told me the same thing a while ago.” (Peter)

Peter approved of Haruka’s remark and even Mark quietly nodded his head in consent.

“If Mark has a single issue with the food, he usually won’t eat it. Though I’ve heard he never has a problem with his wife’s cooking.” (Peter)

Is there actually a wife that can meet the demands of such a picky eater? I wonder what kind of person she is?

“I know there’s a bunch of people who want to quickly get back to their families, but you’ll have to be patient for a little longer.” (Peter)

“Were you told by the emperor to protect the capital?”

“That part’s a bit complicated, I guess. There’s a separate garrison in the capital, right? We’ve been stationed in the capital’s outskirts so we’ll be ready to handle any emergencies and maintain public order – or at least that’s the ‘official’ reason.” (Peter)

The reason why Peter and the others came to our mansion today is because he had been summoned by the emperor.
It looks like he was given some kind of duty which is why he came to consult with us.

“In reality, he’s just worried that the stationed troops of the Mizuho army and your kingdom forces will enter the capital during his absence, isn’t he Wendelin? That paranoia is also the reason why he ordered me to raise an army.” (Peter)

It appears that the emperor wants to restrain my movements no matter what. Even though all he had to do was to tell us to go back to the kingdom.
Originally Peter was dispatched to Sakart in order to monitor us, but he got the emperor’s permission to build an army.
During these months, he gathered a military force surpassing 5,000 soldiers. Since the emperor has no leeway because of the preparations for Duke Nürnberg’s subjugation, there were barely any funds or goods provided to Peter; somehow I ended up being the one to lend these to Peter.
Peter also assembled some very capable personnel, including his leading staff. He welcomed Popek, a former imperial soldier, as his chief of staff. Many other ex-soldiers then joined in with Popek acting as an intermediary.
Particularly of note was the participation of a person called Associate Baron Gilbert Kättern von Bonnhof, who retired from the imperial army in order to succeed his territory.
He was so excellent as a soldier that he even possessed the nickname 『General of Monstrous Strength』, but with his peerage being low, he wasn’t regarded well by the commissioned officers originating from high-ranking noble households. Then his elder brother, who had succeeded the peerage, and his family fell victim to a plague. Making use of the opportunity, he retired from the imperial army.
Being a great warrior on the level of Doushi, he was entrusted with command over the troops Peter had mustered because of Popek, who had been the Associate Baron’s senpai in the imperial army.
The organisation and training of Peter’s army advanced well and in order to ascertain their progress, a few days ago, they carried out a military operation to liberate a monster domain in the vicinity of Sakart, alongside the kingdom forces and the Mizuho army.
The boss, 『Rainbow Assault』, that possessed a rainbow-coloured shell which blocked all attacks, was killed by Wilma’s special sniper rifle. Peter’s army played an active role in the mop-up battle with the monsters left in the region of Sakart, and succeeded in making its name known to the citizens of the empire.
Though it seems that the emperor looked very sullen when Peter reported the outcome to him.
He probably was unable to stomach Peter obtaining deeds of arms before his cherished elder brothers who have a good lineage. Even so, there’s no way he could have spoken ill of that. I hear that the Emperor praised Peter with a stiff expression.
He apparently announced that he will assign the liberated monster domain as Peter’s territory once the subjugation of Duke Nürnberg is over.
He’s making Peter, whose blood was stained with commoner blood, become independent as a noble. The emperor seems to believe that doing this much is a kindness.

“Camping, huh? I don’t particularly mind, but somehow it’s a little…” (Erwin)

Erw, who is advancing the preparations in the encampment in Sakart’s outskirts in order to head to the capital, grumbles, but I have the same feelings about it. Just what does that emperor think people are?

“We have to deal with it for just a bit longer. He won’t come back anyway.” (Peter)

“Your Highness Peter, what about the slim possibility of the emperor managing to escape?” (Erwin)

“No chance in hell. Duke Nürnberg is going out of his way to carefully and thoroughly pull that shitty old man into his own territory after all.” (Peter)

I suppose it means that Duke Nürnberg will focus on a defensive battle with the killing of the emperor and his sons as the first objective. It won’t be any problem if the other soldiers disperse and escape. Or rather, there’s no need to pointlessly kill them since he can use them as his own soldiers when he reorganises his troops afterwards.

“You are that confident of it?” (Wendelin)

“Duke Nürnberg is excellent as a soldier. On the other hand, the shitty old man’s military abilities are non-existent. The more time the other side had, the more thorough their preparations will be. I don’t think there’ll be any oversights. Wendelin, let’s hurry our own preparations for the outing, okay?” (Peter)

“You’re right.” (Wendelin)

◆◇◆◇◆

The next day, we departed to the capital while leading our military forces.
Peter’s forces are commanded by Associate Baron Bonnhof, who was most of the time called Gilbert-san. The kingdom’s forces are under Philip’s command with Erw leading a unit of 1,000 soldiers.
The stationed troops of the Mizuho army were led by a chief vassal of the family called Munekazu Tachibana Mizuho.
Since Doushi, Burkhart-san, Elise and the other wives travelled together with me, the management of Sakart has been left to Penz and Earl Schultz. The command of the troops staying behind won’t pose any problem as we entrusted it to Popek and a person scouted by him.

“Everyone will come to the capital soon anyway…” (Peter)

Peter mumbles by himself in the headquarters established in the outskirts of the capital.

“The shitty old man is probably cheerful that his special palanquin has been completed. It’s pretty shabby to show off like a big shot when he’s the last one to leave.” (Peter)

“That’s harsh, Your Highness.” (Armstrong)

“Doushi, the ones standing at the top need to have qualifications befitting that position.” (Peter)

“Hmm, I guess that’s true…” (Armstrong)

Having been allowed to enter the capital, we watched from a distance as the emperor, on his luxurious palanquin, and his troops depart for the front.

“That luxurious palanquin will immediately change into a coffin!” (Armstrong)

“Doushi, don’t be so blunt.” (Burkhart)

Burkhart-san gave an honest retort to Doushi’s statement.
Given that I hate the emperor, I entered the headquarters after throwing a short glance at the display without any kind of interest.
The spectacle of these splendid military forces departing one after another caused the capital’s residents, who hadn’t had much of any uplifting news since the rebellion started, to kick up a fuss as if watching a festival parade. If they wait a bit longer, there will likely be an uproar after receiving notice of the big defeat, but there’s no need to tell them ahead of time.
Let’s work hard at keeping the public order around the capital as ordered by the emperor, for now.

◆◇◆◇◆

“Those with minor injuries, this way.” (Katharina)

“I mended the bone, but please take a rest for several days.” (Elise)

“Is there no one who will accept my healing?” (Armstrong)

At the same time of maintaining public order, Katharina, Elise and Doushi carry out a Healing Tour around farm villages and similar.

“Being a crop thief is not allowed. You have to buy it. Hah? You are going to resist? Then I will have you faint.”

“Crop thieves are treated as scoundrels among us.”

“Why, us by these two wenches?”

Since most of the imperial army has departed, gangs planning to carry out misconduct have appeared.
Luise and Wilma work diligently at exposing criminals.

“My skills went up considerably.” (Erwin)

“That’s correct, Erw-san.” (Haruka)

Erw and Haruka are earnestly making an effort in the training of their unit under Philip.

“Erw, this food request document has a mistake in its calculation.” (Ina)

“Eh? Really?” (Erwin)

“If you make a mistake in the final totalling, it all comes to nothing. Look, here.” (Ina)

“It’s true…” (Erwin)

Ina helps out with the army’s administration.

“And I’m doing secret manoeuvres to lay the foundation for my time to rise.” (Peter)

Peter sent out his retainers as messengers all over the capital.

“With whom are you negotiating?”

“Decent soldiers of the imperial army.” (Peter)

There were many excellent imperial soldiers who followed Duke Nürnberg, but there were just as many who detested him.
Being quite capable, they raised objections to the emperor’s simplistic strategy of trying to win with just numbers. Because of that, there are many who were demoted to rear supply units or the units left behind to guard the capital. Peter was busy getting in touch with them.

“Did you induce their demotion by having them protest against the emperor?” (Wendelin)

“Never! I just hate to see capable people dying in vain. Since there are many who are lower-ranking nobles and commoners, they won’t say something like 『To a death full of glory!』. Having said that, I’m not completely unrelated to all of this; I go around and advertise my presence to those who also dislike Duke Nürnberg. Since Popek and Gilbert are with me as well, the connections are flawless.” (Peter)

I guess that means he has taken in excellent on-site officers while he can.

“The rest are… coming soon, I think?”

“It’s been a while, Your Highness.”

“Oh my, Earl Baumeister-sama. Are you taking it easy after being released from Therese?”

Peter’s collaborator showed up along with one more person. As it turns out, the collaborator is the boss of the slum quarters located in the capital’s west, and an excellent healing magician who bears the nickname 『Mister Baron』. The likely theory for his nickname was that he got it for being an offspring of a certain noble household, but the truth remains unknown.
He runs a hospital in the slums and gets heavily supported by the slums’ residents.
The one who accompanied him was an elderly man called Randolph, who set up a vigilante corps in order to protect 『Mister Baron』, and was actually a member of the Lan tribe. A long time ago, when Therese and her elder brothers had a power struggle, he was exiled from the Philip Dukedom as a consequence of him backing her elder brothers.
Randolph, who was exiled together with his family, drifted into the slums, and due to their poor life, his child fell ill. Feeling a debt of gratitude to Mister Baron who saved his child then, he formed the vigilante corps from there. Randolph was apparently a chief retainer, and so he trained the slums’ volunteers up to a skill level that they won’t lose to a feudal army.
The emperor didn’t see their value, but they possess a scale as a combat force that one shouldn’t take lightly.
Mister Baron has a deep connection with the Catholic church, to which 30% of the capital’s residents belong. Peter succeeded in landing him as a retainer. Their first negotiation ended terribly after Peter was asked 『Is there any benefit in following you?』, but he ended up joining Peter with the condition that he will be given the liberated monster domain as his territory.

“Yo, Mister Baron. How’s the situation over at the western wall?” (Peter)

“Thank you for the assistance with the materials, funds, food and arms. The repairs are going well.” (Mister Baron)

The western wall, where the slum is located, was originally broken in several places. It’s because the slums’ residents can’t survive if they don’t go outside through these gaps to go hunting or farming. Since it will be broken down again if they repair it, the empire has left it as is. As that place would definitely become a weak point upon Duke Nürnberg’s attack, Peter requested Mister Baron repair the wall on the condition that Peter provides aid for the slums.

“Your Highness, you are quite the rich person, aren’t you?”

“Hahaha, my sponsor is wealthy.” (Peter)

Right, the materials, arms, food and funds sent to the slums were provided by merchants who are Peter’s friends, but the one covering the bills was me.
By spending money here and there, Peter has taken up quite the hefty loan from me.
Peter reported 『I have deceived Earl Baumeister and piled up loans to weaken his financial power. Since, he comes from low-ranking nobility, he happily lent me the money after hearing that I’m a prince.』 to the emperor to lull him into relief. He’s quite the schemer.

“There’s probably no one in the empire who’s drowning in higher debts than me.” (Peter)

“I guess it will be alright if you have borrowed such a large amount of money.” (Mister Baron)

Even after learning of Peter having an enormous debt, Mister Baron didn’t show the slightest hint of worry.

“Borrowing that much is the reason.”

“Usually one will get flustered if it’s a debt of around 100,000 cents, but if you end up borrowing more than one hundred million cents, you can’t do anything about it no matter how much you struggle.”

“Won’t it be fine if you shirk the payment in the worst case?” (Randolph)

“And why would I do that, Randolph?” (Peter)

Peter sharply rejected Randolph’s suggestion.

“See here, it’s something I have privately borrowed from Wendelin, okay?” (Peter)

If a prince of the empire has borrowed money from an Earl of the kingdom, the future of the empire will be influenced by the kingdom. That’s why it has taken the form of Peter privately borrowing money from Wendelin.

“If I can’t pay that back after I become emperor, I would be even more pathetic than the shitty old man and it would make me a guy who can’t even return the money he borrowed from a single Earl of the kingdom.” (Peter)

It will be tough sailing for such a pitiful emperor. Peter has to definitely pay the money back.

“That sounds tough. So? How much longer?”

“It depends on my shitty old man, but I’m pretty sure ‘that time’ will arrive in less than a month.” (Peter)

◆◇◆◇◆

Twenty days later, Peter’s prediction came true.
A spy, who had been secretly dispatched to join the punitive force, rushed in that evening to Peter’s location with a fast horse.

“It’s a crushing defeat! His Majesty the Emperor was killed!” (Spy)

“As expected… so, what about the details?” (Peter)

Out of breath, the spy is about to give a detailed report inside the tent where all leaders gathered in a hurry.

“Umm, this…” (Elise)

“Thank you, M’Lady.” (Spy)

The spy began his report after quickly gulping down the maté tea Elise made.
It’s just a minor detail, but – as might be expected of Elise – she deliberately made a lukewarm tea at such time.

“The enemies were few, and when our allies charged with the entire army…” (Spy)

Duke Nürnberg had his troops gather and pulled the whole army back to the area around his stronghold. He even had the nobles, who are allied with him, abandon their territories temporarily.
The punitive force entered the empty territories of the southern nobles, but with the area being cleared out except for the docile civilian population, they continued to advance while occupying the territories without bloodshed. Gradually, the rumour 『Duke Nürnberg, who runs away without fighting out of cowardice, was a military genius in name only. At most he was a genius at fleeing.』 spread among the punitive force. Additionally confident because of their numerical superiority, the punitive force became increasingly careless.
When they finally approached Duke Nürnberg’s stronghold, the entire enemy army awaited them.

“There were worried voices asking whether we hadn’t been lured there by Duke Nürnberg, but His Majesty announced that Duke Nürnberg’s military forces would collapse all at once if we gave it another push…” (Spy)

Given that they had advanced without any issues so far, it seems the emperor became completely careless as well.
He valiantly charged with the entire army and was immediately crushed by Duke Nürnberg who had all possible preparations in order.

“But you know, no matter how negligent they might have been, it was still a military force with twice the enemy’s size. They got defeated that easily?” (Erwin)

If I remember correctly, the punitive force had 500,000 soldiers in total. Even if you deduct 200,000 for things such as supply and maintenance of the occupied territories, they still had more than twice the number of the military forces led by Duke Nürnberg.
It’s just as Erw says, I wonder whether they would be defeated so easily.

“Duke Nürnberg used various plans.”

Why did Duke Nürnberg stick with defending his stronghold?
The answer to that became clear after the emperor gave the order for the entire army to attack.

“Exploding golems and metal dragons? He used excavated items again, eh?!?”

“Correct.” (Spy)

That bastard Duke Nürnberg, he got his filthy hands on a large number of treasures dug out from the ruins of the Ancient Magic Civilization.
Assured by their numerical superiority and having been ordered a charge with all their forces against Duke Nürnberg who deployed his army in the rear of his stronghold, the punitive force was roasted alive by the breath attacks of several, cleverly hidden, metal dragons. Even so, the emperor ordered a second attack, but this time animal-shaped golems rushed at them.
Once they attacked those golems, they exploded and scattered splinters into a wide range. Many commanding officers lost their lives to these and the entire army fell apart. Seeing that, Duke Nürnberg ordered an attack with his entire army.
In the end, Duke Nürnberg’s army had almost no losses. In contrast to that, the punitive force fell into a state of annihilation, the spy reported. (T/N: why add this after several paragraphs of narration, just make the spy talk … how sloppy)

“Since the kingdom has also unearthed items from underground ruins, it’s not strange for the empire to have done the same.”

“The metal dragons especially exhibited their might. Several thousand soldiers of the punitive forces that closed in on them died after simply melting due to several shots of their breath attacks,” the spy says.

“They sound like the ones we encountered in that underground ruin, right?” (Ina)

“I think they’re the same kind.” (Wendelin)

Ina apparently recalled the metal dragons we fought before, and I believe they’re probably the same ones.
Although it was a big army of 300,000 soldiers, only collapse awaited them after things had gone this far.
After the collapse of the entire army, Duke Nürnberg closed in on them all at once and the palanquin with the emperor on it was knocked over.
Covered in mud, the emperor pleaded for his life to Duke Nürnberg who thrust his sword towards him. After calling the groveling emperor 『Disgusting』, Duke Nürnberg ruthlessly lopped off his head with a single swing.

“You did well to find out so much.”

“I was in the rear. A single follower of the emperor came escaping in my direction with a ghastly pale face.” (Spy)

Since that follower was a noble, he said he would stay back to somehow gather the forces that were in the process of completely falling apart after the emperor’s death. The spy immediately jumped on a horse and escaped to this place.

“You did a splendid job to escape and come report as swiftly as you did. Gatora, your techniques of handling a fast horse deserve to be praised.” (Peter)

The spy’s name appears to be Gatora. Of course, he was also one of Peter’s retainers.

“What about my elder brothers?” (Peter)

“It seems each took control of an army as second-in-command, but they have probably met the same fate as the emperor.” (Gatora)

“Makes sense. They don’t have the experience and ability to rally the troops in such situation.” (Peter)

It wasn’t enough to cause a problem for Duke Nürnberg. Him temporarily withdrawing his soldiers from the capital was owed to his confidence that he can win using the relics of the underground ruin, as long as he manages to lure the enemy to his home turf.
Metal dragons… dragon golems are heavy, so I suppose he used the manpower of his home territory for their construction and set up.

“To have held these back until his battle against the emperor… He completely deceived us!” (Armstrong)

“Such new tools often display their best results when they are used for the first time. He apparently thought that they might have not shown the same effectiveness against Therese-sama and us, as we would have been more cautious. Using them against the emperor was effective.” (Burkhart)

It’s just as Burkhart-san says.
As a result of that, the 300,000 troops collapsed and the emperor himself died as well.
There was no better way for Duke Nürnberg to use his trump card.

“The outcome is as predicted, it’s a crushing defeat for our allies. Still, it does leave quite the bad aftertaste…” (Peter)

It looks like Peter is human as well. Did he suffer a shock from the death of his father and elder brothers, no matter how much he usually slandered them? No, he’s probably feeling sorry for those who got dragged in and died because of those three fools.

“Now then, thanks to Gatora we learned the news before anyone else. It’ll still take some time until the news about the shitty old man’s defeat and death reaches the ears of Duchess Philip, who returned to her territory. The capital will soon be plunged into chaos. That means we’ll have to kindly clean up the mess created by my incompetent father.” (Peter)

Having said that, as expected of Peter, he declares to everybody that they are going to move immediately.
If he hadn’t this much cheekiness, he might not be suited to become emperor.

“Although they were defeated, there’s no need to be too pessimistic about it. The military forces can be reorganised.” (Peter)

It’s unrealistic for all of the 500,000 troops to have been annihilated. Especially the 200,000 troops in charge of rear support should have almost no losses. I’m pretty sure that none of them has stayed behind to take revenge for the emperor.

“It’s very likely that Duke Nürnberg will advance his troops upon the capital in high spirits after having won. Or rather, I think he’ll bust his ass to recapture the capital.” (Peter)

To begin with, Duke Nürnberg’s territory is closer to the capital than the Philip Dukedom. Therese has to call her entire army together from now on, so she won’t be in time to rescue the capital.

“There were many amongst the nobles and the imperial army who felt a sense of danger from the Duke Nürnberg subjugation this time, and thus had their best subordinates stay away or had them placed in the rear support units. And…” (Peter)

Peter places both his hands on my shoulders.

“Your kingdom forces and my forces that were raised in Sakart. There’s also the Mizuho army to count on. I think there’ll be many idiots who will kick up a fuss because those are military forces of foreign countries, but right now it’s a race. We’ll announce the shitty old man’s death and grab the power in one go.” (Peter)

As expected, it looks like we cannot afford to wait until tomorrow.
Marching orders are passed down to the entire army by Peter, and the encampment quickly becomes lively.

“Gatora.” (Peter)

“Sir!!” (Gatora)

“Enter the capital and give the same report to Earl Bayerlein and Earl Lanzberg.” (Peter)

“At your command.” (Gatora)

“Wendelin, are you curious? Since those guys my comrades, they’ll open the currently closed main gate of the capital.” (Peter)

They seem to be members of the imperial army, but since it looks like Popek, Gilbert, Emera and other retainers moved in places I’m not aware of, I guess they repeatedly went through negotiations. The plan is for us to enter with the entire army at the same time as the capital’s main gate opens. Then we will occupy the imperial palace and the imperial army’s facilities, allowing Peter to quickly grasp the real power of the empire.
This was also a kind of coup d’etat, but, in this case, it probably can’t be helped. Seeing that the emperor has died, the capital will be stolen by Duke Nürnberg once again if no one succeeds the emperor’s authority.

“Wendelin, all you’ve got to do is to watch next to me. As expected, this kind of work has to be done with us in the lead.” (Peter)

“You are saying something like that, but you are fully intending to use me.” (Wendelin)

Even without doing anything, my presence will serve as a figurehead.

“I want to have several hands to play if we actually run into trouble. When dealing with important business, you have to use whatever and ‘whoever’ is available, right?” (Peter)

Without any shyness, Peter declared that he will make use of me.

“I’ll cooperate for the sake of getting my money back, though I will charge you for that.” (Wendelin)

“Of course, buddy. Let’s go then?” (Peter)

Only a few guards remain in our encampment in the outskirts as we head towards the capital’s main gate with the entire army.

“(What a pity… old shitty man.)” (Peter)

“Did you say anything?” (Wendelin)

“Nope you’re hearing things. Well then! My time to shine starts now!” (Peter)

◆◇◆◇◆

The pitiful emperor Urquhart the 17th, who got manipulated by Duke Nürnberg from the coup d’etat until his death, finished his short reign that lasted around half a year.
The history books would later specify that his rule only lasted 178 days.
It’s the second shortest reign of an emperor in the country’s history.
The emperor who had the shortest reign was Urquhart the 3rd, who suddenly died after a reign of 70 days, around 1,100 years ago.

 

 


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