The royal palace went into a temporary frenzy over the news that the Divine Son of Destruction had been sighted at the bridge point of the Conte River.
So far there had been many instances of rumors circulating, stating that the Divine Son of Destruction had started military operations against Holmea or was trying to poison wells. But, whenever those rumors were investigated for their authenticity, they proved to be groundless. The truth was actually the complete opposite of those rumors. During the last five years of him controlling Bolnis, the Divine Son of Destruction had actually stayed low, trying to not provoke Holmea. At least officially, the Divine Son of Destruction had never moved a single soldier against Holmea.
That Divine Son of Destruction had finally broken his silence, moving an army. That piece of news triggered an extraordinary air of tension among King Warius and his chief vassals. At once King Warius corroborated his order towards the noble lords to gather their soldiers and join the upcoming campaign. The chief vassals were busy with the organization of the lords’ joint army.
However, that tension didn’t last for long. After the first message that the Divine Son of Destruction had arrived at the Conte, the garrison at the river sent a messenger daily, and depending on the day, several times per day. But all the messages only stated that the Divine Son of Destruction was training his soldiers without even trying to approach the bridge.
King Warius chuckled at that, “That Divine Son of Destruction raised an army before I could, but isn’t he just playing around near the river while being completely scared of us?”
The vassals followed that opinion, mostly to flatter the king.
“Perhaps he’s exhibiting his will to fight towards Romania with whom he concluded a secret agreement.”
“Hahaha, isn’t that the epitome of paltriness?”
“In the end, they’re no more sub-human slaves. They whole lot of them doesn’t amount to much.”
King Warius repeatedly nodded at his vassals’ reassurance in good humor. It was rare for King Warius to be in such a great mood as someone who had a strong disposition to immediately flare up if people flattered him too blatantly.
There was a reason for that.
“Your Majesty! His Excellency Marquis Appius arrived, leading 1,000 soldiers. He has passed on his wish to be granted an audience with Your Majesty!”
“Just now His Excellency Baron Mordeus of Lanbrest has joined the noble army alongside a hundred soldiers!”
“His Excellency Viscount Dolses has arrived at the palace after receiving Your Majesty’s call!”
One notification after the other announcing noble lords joining the noble army under King Warius reached the palace. The lords had come to express their wish to join the war effort while leading their soldiers much faster than King Warius had expected, seemingly thirsting for battle quite a bit. Moreover, the king’s promise that they could obtain the rule over Bolnis on top of tremendous rewards if they proved their worth on the battlefield appeared to have been quite effective. Each and every single of the lords was accompanied by numbers of soldiers that exceeded the initial estimations.
On top of expressly granting each of those lords an audience, he even bestowed them with his own words, making his good mood obvious to everyone.
“I hadn’t anticipated that the lords would get this excited over the suppression of the revolting slaves. At this rate, the nobles’ army will surely reach a count of 10,000. Nothing less of Your Majesty’s clout and charisma.” A vassal flattered King Warius as they gazed at the nobles’ troops camping around the capital from the balcony of the palace’s highest spire.
Even such an obvious compliment only caused King Warius to smile broadly.
“Mmh, mmh, it’s as you say. It’s just as you say!”
“Letters with apologies and requests to be allowed to provide provisions for the nobles’ army have been delivered from the eastern nobles who cannot move because of Romania’s threat.”
“Uh-huh, we must be ready for Romania as well after all. Besides, I’m a generous man. Write up a response, telling them that I highly appreciate their loyalty.”
“The lords’ joint army has reached this much of a scale. How about assigning Marquis Appius, who is highly popular among the nobles and possesses plenty of combat experience, as supreme commander?”
“Mmh, mmh, do as you see fit. I leave it to you.”
There didn’t exist a pleasure as thrilling as things advancing to one’s satisfaction. King Warius guffawed very happily.
The Divine Son of Destruction was no one to be feared, and the revolting slaves might easily get crushed before long – that opinion was prevalent among many people, not only in Holmea, but across all of the West.
However, there existed some people who kept a close eye on the movements of the Divine Son of Destruction with their wariness only heightened by all the events. The ones you could list as the representatives of those people were Darius, the man extolled as Holmea’s strongest general, and Ponpius, Darius’ sworn friend and the former Grand Prime Minister.
“Now then, what do you think about the recent movements of the Divine Son of Destruction?”
Darius immediately answered Ponpius’ question, “It’s most likely a diversion.”
Even if he might rule over Bolnis which certainly experienced a remarkable growth, it’s still no more than a single, provincial city. The difference in military prowess when compared to Holmea, a major powerhouse of the West, is crystal-clear. If you try to defeat an enemy with a huge army by using a small force, it’s nothing but to stupid to challenge them head-on. You must attack your opponent from a direction they wouldn’t expect, or take them by surprise.
Nonetheless he moved a small amount of soldiers for show, and on top of not attacking, he’s pulling some retarded bullshit like letting the soldiers play around in front of enemy territory. It’s next to impossible that the Divine Son of Destruction would come out himself for such a foolish endeavor.
Darius had a reason for being convinced of this.
“When he fought against me, he already had more than a thousand soldiers. Not only did he subdue the zoan ever since then, but I hear he also had quite a few of our Holmean soldiers, who were his prisoners, swear their allegiance to him. And yet, the number of his soldiers hasn’t grown.”
The scouts reported that the majority of the troops with the Divine Son of Destruction were zoan and humans. In that case, at the very least the soldiers of other races, which got replaced by humans, have vanished somewhere.
“Going by my calculations, at least 500 soldiers which mostly consist of dwarves and zoan have disappeared. That guy is trying to do something by using them.”
Ponpius shared Darius’ opinion once again, “You won’t hear any objection from me. ――But, the problem is…”
“Yep, the problem is what the Divine Son of Destruction is targeting. Correct?”
There’s no doubt that the troops led by the Divine Son of Destruction are acting out being a decoy to draw the attention to them. But, although I can tell as much, I don’t know the most important part: his true objective.
“Aren’t they simply waiting for Romania to make its move?”
“No,” Darius immediately denies Ponpius’ theory, “Romania’s aim is to have us exhaust our resources in a flashy battle against the Divine Son of Destruction. If Romania moved at this point, our country would prioritize dealing with them over the Divine Son of Destruction. Both Romania and that guy are well aware of this, I reckon.”
Darius frowned with his arms folded in front of his chest.
“And there’s something that bothers me.”
Currently the soldiers have started to gradually gather as we’ve finally entered the slack season for farmers. No matter how much the Divine Son of Destruction relies on the zoan as his main force, he must assemble human soldiers as well, if he’s going to have a decisive battle against Holmea. The gradual gathering of soldiers should also apply to Holmea, and yet I can’t read the motive behind him making a move without waiting for this to finish.
“If it’s a diversion anyway, gathering many soldiers and doing it with a grand display of military force would have a much better effect. So why did he raise an army without waiting for the other soldiers to arrive despite that? To me it looks like he’s driven by impatience as he’s trying to get something done in time.”
Ponpius could agree with that as well. But, in the end he didn’t know why the Divine Son of Destruction would act like that either.
For a while Darius and Ponpius put their heads together, discussing various possibilities, but they couldn’t quite come to a conclusion.
At that moment, the mansion’s chamberlain arrived to announce a visitor.
“Sir Cornelius has come, expressing his wish to meet you, Your Grace.”
Darius furrowed his eyebrows deeply.
Cornelius was a member of the Committee of Ten in Jeboa. Darius couldn’t understand why such a big merchant would expressly come to request a meeting with an outcast like him. But, he immediately recalled that he had sent a letter warning the merchant guild to stay away from the Divine Son of Destruction several years ago.
However, even Darius hadn’t originally expected that a single letter would hinder the Divine Son of Destruction’s movements. After all, he had sent the letter while believing that his letter should at least slow down the Divine Son of Destruction’s movements, if not restrain them to some extent.
Jeboa’s merchant should have understood as much as well. Very likely he’s come here to apologize to me just in case, Darius assessed. I’ll listen to his simple greeting and apology to avoid future troubles.
Darius had half-risen to his feet after having made that decision, but suddenly he completely stopped moving.
“…! Cornelius has visited, you say!?”
Ponpius was surprised by the sudden change in bearing by Darius. A loud bam echoed through the room faster than Ponpius could ask whether something was wrong. Darius’ tightly clenched fist had slammed against the massive table. Due to the excessive noise and impact, Ponpius actually experienced the hallucination of the ground trembling.
“I see! So that’s the reason, you cursed Divine Son of Destruction!” Darius squeezed out a hateful hiss through his teeth he was clamping down upon. “Anyone! Send a messenger at once! It’s an emergency!”
“What’s wrong, Darius!?” Ponpius asked in panic, watching how Darius abruptly started to act while having a terrifying expression on his face.
“I grasped the Divine Son of Destruction’s aim!” Darius spat out without even looking back at Ponpius. “His goal is to crush our Holmea’s dignity and shatter the sword that has been pointed at him!”
“Your Excellency, aren’t we going the wrong way?”
While riding his chariot that was pulled by two kiryu, Baron Kantbias screwed up his face into a grimace upon hearing the words of the knight serving under him.
Baron Kantbias was one of the lords ruling over territory in a remote area of Holmea. And following King Warius’ call to arms, he had gathered the men capable of fighting in his territory, and was now on the way to the capital Holmenia. Because his territory was situated far from the capital, he had fallen behind the other lords.
At this point many lords had already responded to Kind Warius by joining the nobles’ army, and as Baron Kantbias had heard that the soldiers were in the process of relocating to Luoma, he was now hurrying to the capital. But, although he should have taken the road to the south at the earlier fork to head straight for Holmenia, Baron Kantbias had steered his chariot onto the road heading north for some reason.
“…No need to tell me. I’m well aware of it myself.”
The knight guessed the circumstances from his lord’s bitter response.
The other day a messenger on a fast horse had visited Baron Kantbias as he was heading for the capital. It was just a moment, but the knight had caught a glimpse of the crest of a lion on the letter handed to the baron by the messenger. The only ones permitted to use a lion for their crest in Holmea were the royal family and high-ranking nobles related to them. But, it was hard to imagine that King Warius would personally send a letter to his lord who was no more than a puny, provincial lord. In that case, the only other possibility would be――
“Your Excellency, I fully understand your feelings, but please be careful.”
The knight deliberately expressed his honest opinion to his lord. He knew that his lord had deeply respected and loved General Darius as a friend for a long time now. However, unlike in the past, it was a bad idea to have anything to do with General Darius these days. After General Darius had failed in the suppression of the slave revolt, King Warius, who had shunned General Darius for a while now, had successively demoted the generals and vassals closely tied to General Darius or expelled them to Holmea’s hinterland as if taking advantage of the opportunity. Thanks to this, Holmea’s government was now run by people who could be described as an anti-Darius faction.
If one of them were to learn that the baron had answered General Darius’ request, it was quite likely for the baron to get alienated as well.
However, even while feeling appreciative towards his subordinate’s advice, Baron Kantbias rejected it.
“That gentleman took good care of me during my first campaign. Anyway, let’s drop this topic. ――Besides, I just got a little lost on the way. It won’t become much of a serious matter.”
Once being confidently asserted of this by his lord, the knight couldn’t say anything further as his retainer. He had no choice but to silently follow his lord while leading the soldiers.
Besides, the request by General Darius seemed to ask the baron to go check up on a certain town. The knight was sure that doing this much wouldn’t lead to any problems.
However, soon after they had changed their route, a man appeared in front, blocking the way of the soldiers led by Baron Kantbias. Seemingly being a refugee or beggar, he was pitch-black with dirt and wore shabby clothes. Anyone could immediately tell that he was on the verge of breaking down from exhaustion as it took him all his effort to keep standing upright. And yet, the man frantically waved his hands, blocking Baron Kantbias’s path.
At once the knight led his horse between the man and the baron, reprimanding the man from atop his horse.
“Who are you bastard!? How dare you blocking the path of His Excellency Baron Kantbias and his men!?”
However, far from backing off, the man sat down in front of the knight’s horse, and pleaded, “A-Anyone will do. Please…please lend me your strength. It’s of utmost importance for the country.”
Seeing the frantic state of the man, and hearing his unusual entreaty, the knight wavered in his judgment how he should deal with him. He asked for his lord’s opinion with his eyes. Baron Kantbias nodded lightly. Baron Kantbias also felt that something unusual was going on with that man.
“Very well. I’m Baron Kantbias. ――Who are you?”
Thereupon the man started to talk about something totally crazy. He said that he was one of the soldiers stationed in a certain town, and was trying to get to the capital to inform the government of a serious incident.
Baron Kantbias and the knight exchanged looks after hearing that. Certainly, the clothes worn by the man was the uniform of Holmean soldiers if you looked closely through all the dirt. What surprised the baron and his knight even further was that the town mentioned by the man actually concurred with the town they were about to visit.
“J-Just what the heck happened!? Why is it a serious incident of utmost importance for the country!?”
The soldier intermittently answered the baron’s question while repeatedly interrupted by hard gasps. Learning of the details, Baron Kantbias became dumbfounded for a while.
“Your Excellency! This is truly and utterly a major disaster for the country!!”
Coming to his senses from the knight’s outcry, Baron Kantbias acted swiftly. He immediately had his driver step off the chariot, and replaced him with the worn-out soldier while taking hold of the reins himself.
“I’ll head to the capital with our cavalry! You follow while leading the infantry!”
Giving this order to the knight, he galloped off towards the capital, accompanied by only a few cavalrymen. And right after arriving at the capital and getting past all the controls by the gatekeepers and guards, he marched into the audience hall where King Warius was currently residing.
“Just what is all this ruckus about?”
As might be expected, even King Warius frowned in displeasure despite the preparations for the suppression of the slave revolt proceeding at a good pace.
“Your Majesty, it is a crisis!”
However, in spite of hurting King Warius’ mood, Baron Kantbias not only abstained from falling prostrate, but even shirked the formal greetings, cutting right to the core of the matter.
Because of this, King Warius tapped the armrest of his throne with his finger, while thinking, This is the reason why I can’t stand country bumpkins who don’t even understand proper manners.
“What’s that crisis you’re talking about? Or is this a ploy to have an unapproved audience with me?” King Warius snarled, filling his words with the implicit threat that things wouldn’t end well for the baron if his business was foolish.
After nodding as if being fully aware of that, Baron Kantbias pushed out the soldiers, whom he had supported by lending him a shoulder, in front of the king.
“This here is the man who has approached me about carrying information of utmost emergency. ――Now, tell His Majesty what you’ve told me.”
The soldier looked like he had used up most of his energy by now, but being urged on by Baron Kantbias, he forced his body to move, falling prostrate in front of King Warius.
“Your Majesty, it is an emergency! Marven…Marven has…!”
Contrary to the expectations that the soldiers would finally be able to make his report, he experienced a violent coughing fit, interrupting his words.
Even the frantic state of that soldier grated the nerves of King Warius. Although he had been in such bliss for a change, he was now forced to listen to the report of some lowly, filthy soldier as if to pour cold water on his great mood.
In the end, his irritation found its way into his voice, “Speak up and tell me what it is about Copper Mine Marven!?”
If one mentioned Marven, it’d refer to the Copper Mine Marven located in the north of Holmea. It was a mine prominent in the West for its rich yield of copper, and as such it served as a major pillar supporting Holmea’s tax income.
If a serious incident has taken place at Marven, it’s probably something about huge casualties among the sub-human slaves working in the mine after a tunnel caved in. King Warius underrated the situation in such a way. A labor shortage due to the collapse of a tunnel will lower the planned amount of mined copper. In such a case, we must plan a reassessment of the country’s financial affairs. I guess we have to purchase slaves or gather laborers by hunting down refugees again to speed up the restoration of the mine.
What a pain in the ass, King Warius sighed in his mind.
However, the situation was far worse than King Warius had expected.
“…It has fallen.”
Unable to understand the meaning of the words squeezed out by the soldier with a hoarse voice, King Warius asked, “What?”, with a puzzled look.
The soldier mustered his last strength once more, and shouted, “Marven has fallen after a sudden attack by zoan and dwarves!”
The bishop’s staff slipped out of King Warius’ hand and fell on the floor with a clattering.
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