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Chapter 30: Fun Fortress Life
“The Kingdom’s Army has been defeated at Bertusburg Plains,” “Canaan has fallen, and the Liberation Army is beginning to march towards the Royal Capital.”
The sensational news was advertised everywhere by the Liberation Army, and it had even reached up to Madros in the Kingdom’s northern region.
Leader of the Fifth Army, Kerry, urgently assembled the military and staff officers to discuss about their policy hereafter.
Everyone’s faces were gloomy, and they couldn’t conceal their unease. With his arms crossed, Kerry’s eyes were shut in his seat.
“……Your Excellency. Now that Canaan has been lost and the First Army that was the bulk of the Kingdom’s forces was devastated, the Kingdom’s fate is in a precarious situation. You must decide.”
Said a staff officer, resolved. Resolved, for something everyone understood: to abandon the Kingdom and side with the rebel army. This was the only road that would ensure Madros’s survival.
“So it ultimately comes to this…”
“Old man! That isn’t the case right!? Yalder and his group risked their lives and fought to save Madros! Isn’t it our turn now to save them!?”
Kerry’s second son, Captain Darus Madros, slapped the round table and stood up. He normally wouldn’t have been permitted to participate in the war council based on rank, but he was attending as Kerry’s son. Either way, he would one day aid his older brother and protect Madros. He needed to accumulate experience.
The eldest brother, Denim Madros, was taking command at the front line forts. If he were to die by chance, Darus was obligated to succeed after him. That was the destiny of those born into the Madros family.
“Sir Darus. What you say certainly stands to reason. As a warrior, that is correct. But, you fail as a politician.”
Admonished the staff officer in charge of Darus’s education.
“What failure! To even throw away our pride, why must we join the rebel army-!? What justice do they have!? They aimlessly spread the fires of war; just who is the one tormenting the people!?”
“Then tell me, Darus, what concrete plan do you have? If you have one, let’s hear it. You don’t need to hold back; tell us your great idea to save the Kingdom while protecting Madros. Right now. There’s not much time left.”
Pressed Kerry in a composed tone. Darus hesitated. There could be no such convenient plan.
“……In order to buy time, send out the troops. Even a little is fine. Support the First Army until they can rally themselves and fight back! There’s significance in the Fifth Army showing themselves–we can show them that we won’t abandon them!”
“Our Fifth Army is occupied keeping the Empire at bay. We cannot deal with a threat from behind us. If you plan to save the Kingdom, you must also forsake Madros, and such an act is impossible for me. My mission is to protect the lands and people of Madros. I don’t even have to think about it-”
“You would throw away your honor and pride for that!?”
“Exactly. Whether it be honor, whether it be pride, do you think you can survive with such crap like that? Every man on this earth if shown an opening are beasts who would steal for their own profit. Even if I have to drink mud, eat bugs, and cover myself in filth, I will protect Madros. At the very least, I’ve seen the Liberation Army’s tactician. That man plans on using us. We probably won’t be treated poorly.”
Darus kicked away his chair and went to leave. He too saw himself as a man of the Madros family. But, was it really okay to take it this far? Hadn’t Yalder saved them from the Empire’s invasion? And hadn’t Schera braved the danger, stepped into the heart of the enemy, and saved Madros?
In their predicament, why did they have to turn their backs on and point their blades towards their benefactors? The young Darus couldn’t agree.
“Well, whether you agree or not, my decision won’t change. If you don’t like it, then go to the Royal Capital yourself. I won’t stop you. The Fifth Army will capitulate to the Liberation Army, however, on the condition that we won’t participate in the attack on the Royal Capital.
“Oh I’ll do so, you piece of shit old man-!! I’m different from you and my elder brother, I’m just a fool!”
“Do as you like. But, don’t call yourself by the surname of Madros. Not just me, you’ll trouble everyone living in Madros. You’ll live as simply Darus, and you’ll die as simply Darus. You’re disinherited. Don’t show yourself before me again.”
“Hah, you don’t have to tell me, you rotten shits! I’ll show you my spirit-!”
He kicked open the door and went outside with squared shoulders. Kerry sent a signal with his eyes, and a senior bodyguard followed after him. Perhaps this could be called a final sign of parental love.
“……Now that the idiot has left, let’s restart the discussion. Immediately go and greet the Princess of the Liberation Army. Tell her we’ll release the prisoners. Take the fastest horse. The faster we go, the better the impression we’ll make.”
“But, tell her that we cannot participate in sieging the Royal Capital. We won’t surrender that far. If she says no, threaten her that we’ll fight against her. If this area becomes Empire dominion, that’ll also be to their detriment. There’s no need for us to excessively depreciate ourselves.”
If they sent soldiers to the Royal Capital and Madros became under-manned, the Imperial Army would once again draw close. The Liberation Army wouldn’t want this area to be occupied by the Empire either probably.
“This discussion is over. Everyone return to your duties-!”
Proclaimed Kerry, and the military and civil officials saluted and stood up to leave. Kerry stared at the ceiling with a weary face, still seated.
“God, I didn’t think they’d lose. If you’d won at Canaan, Yalder, we’d be able to see each other again. You really do have rotten luck…”
While he clicked his tongue, the face of that idiotic and heroic warrior floated in his mind.
(I must protect Madros. Just like you have your unyielding pride, I have Madros. I cannot have the people suffer for my selfishness. Yalder, sorry, but I cannot come aid you.)
“………..If only, I were a bit younger.”
Kerry suppressed his own desires and endured. The Liberation Army had the momentum. He couldn’t gamble now of all times. Yalder would fight until the end, and then he would probably die. That man was that kind of human. With his pride as a warrior in his chest, he would sacrifice himself for the Kingdom.
For the sake of Madros, Kerry had resigned himself to letting his comrades and friends die.
Tactician Diener of the Liberation Army went to the neutral City of Arte for a conference.
A vacant house on the outskirts with no signs of life.
Disguised operatives fortified the surroundings. Why they had chosen a place all the way out here, was because both parties were in positions where they had to conceal themselves.
Next to Diener was Vander under his direct control. He had been promoted to Major for his deeds at the previous battle. This young man who was walking well on the road to success could also probably be called Diener’s right hand man. Knowledge, connections, the art of spy work, and also strategy and tactics were driven into him, and he was trained so he could work as Diener’s assistant. Answering the expectations placed on him, Vander achieved splendid results.
“……It seems they have arrived.”
“I see. Don’t be discourteous. Our company is a man of a different ‘standing’ than us.”
Muttered Diener with a sarcastic feeling. A person appeared from the back door wearing a black hood, his body covered.
The person’s name, was Farzam, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom. So he could conduct negotiations with the Liberation Army who should’ve been his sworn enemy, he had directly visited this place. He had made a trip under the pretense of observing the front lines of the Kingdom.
Several people in black clothes stood behind Farzam. They were an intelligence unit of the Prime Minister’s proteges, and disposable pieces.
“…….Prime Minister of the Kingdom, Sir Farzam, or am I mistaken?”
“You’re correct. I am Prime Minister Farzam. And would it be appropriate to take you as Sir Diener?”
“Indeed no doubt. What are you standing around for, please sit. Though, I cannot provide any hospitality in this kind of place.”
Invited Diener, and Farzam took his seat vigilantly. If he snapped his fingers, that would be instructions to immediately cut Diener down.
Sensing the hostility, Vander put his hand on his sword’s grip and got ready for battle. There were soldiers concealed above the ceiling. This situation would obviously happen since they were mutual enemies.
“By the way, is Princess Altura in good health?”
“……I never would have thought I’d hear those words out of your mouth, Sir Prime Minister. Was it not you who entrapped that lady’s father and drove him to death?”
Asked Diener in an amazed tone at Farzam’s shameless remark. The Prime Minister without at all any display of agitation exaggeratedly denied the claim, making a hurt expression.
“What an unhappy misunderstanding. I did nothing more than investigate into a likelihood. The one who doubted that person and exiled him was the late King. I did nothing. It hurts me that you’ve misunderstood.”
“Fufu, as expected of Sir Prime Minister of the Kingdom, your tongue is quite glib. How many people have you driven to death with that skillful speech?”
“I only faithfully perform my own duties. Never would I harbor treachery. I swear upon the stars. There exists no human as upright and clean-handed as me.”
Smoothly and fluently turned his tongue. How dare you prattle on like that, Diener was about to burst out, but he resisted. Entertaining monkey shows were needed even in a place like this, and he had to have the monkey dance for him as much as possible. Diener advanced the conversation.
“Well, let’s leave it at that. Our greetings have deepened our friendship to this extent, so now let’s move on to the main question.”
“It seems Sir Tactician of the Liberation Army is busy. How different it is for those with momentum behind them, as I would expect.”
“Haha, it is all thanks to you. My work is piling up like mountains, because the guys who ought to have done it originally hadn’t you know. I don’t even have time to sleep. It’s so troubling.”
While releasing killing intent, they both bared their teeth at each other. This was duel of words.
“Let’s not beat around the bush. There’s no need for excessive tedious talk. We of the the Yuze Kingdom would like to propose peace talks with the Royal Capital Liberation Army.
“His Majesty Kristoff wishes to hand over the throne to Princess Altura after an interim period of half a year. Afterwards, he would like to be promised a retirement in the north. His Majesty does not wish for any more useless fighting.”
Farzam held out a letter with the King’s seal on it. Of course, it was a forgery. There was no way Kristoff would accept such a plan.
But, Farzam intended seeing this through. He could save the King’s life and could also retain some political power. It was possible for him to take back his authority if he waited for an chance to. If he were the one doing it, it was possible. Farzam had confidence in himself. He couldn’t handle a spear, but he had made it to the top with his brains and speech.
“Hm. But, I could not possibly accept this. We already have our hands on the Royal Capital. There is no need for us to give you an extension of half a year after all this. What you can do, is promptly give us your unconditional surrender. That’s about it. Obediently surrender the Royal Capital and take your judgement like a man, how about it?”
Diener threw away the letter. He mustn’t show weakness in negotiations. Furthermore, the Liberation Army was in an overwhelmingly advantageous position. There wasn’t any reason to accept such a foolish policy.
In that case, why had Diener come to this meaningless negotiation table?
“I see. Certainly, your opinion is reasonable. But, if you don’t accept this proposal, we will resist in the Royal Capital to the last man. The people’s blood will flow, the Royal Capital will be destroyed, and who would like that outcome? Think about this carefully.”
Indeed. The problem was the Royal Capital. It was their target of liberation; they couldn’t destroy it. The Royal Capital becoming a place for a decisive battle would also make bringing in siege warfare a terrible idea. They couldn’t purposefully destroy the Kingdom’s greatest metropolis city that would later become their dwelling.
Moreover, they wouldn’t be able to avoid causing casualties among the Royal Capital’s populace. It would be terrible if the people’s resentment turned towards the Liberation Army. For the ‘righteous’ Liberation Army, they currently couldn’t allow any injury to befall the innocent people.
If they affected the current reign, the ones standing to gain would probably be the Empire and the Union. Especially the Empire, who would be wholeheartedly delighted surmising the chance to create a puppet regime. Under the name of assistance, they would possibly deploy soldiers to Royal Capital Blanca.
“You’ve struck where it hurts. This humble Diener has misread Sir Prime Minister. I apologize for my impoliteness.”
“What, I also care for the citizens of the Kingdom. This humble Farzam would give away his life for the Kingdom.”
Farzam had a seedy smile.
“I thank Sir Prime Minister for his kindness. Then, shall we compromise?”
“Those are the words I wished to hear the most. By all means, please allow me to hear your proposal.”
In response to him, Diener proposed a matter Farzam hadn’t expected.
“…….We… plan on capturing Cyrus and Sayeh afterwards. During that time, I would like Sir Prime Minister to keep a tight grip on the military and civil officials, and arrange to open the gates as soon as we arrive at the Royal Capital.”
“I can’t understand the meaning of what you’re saying; just what do you mean? We should’ve be discussing about peace. For me to do such an extreme act of disloyalty, why—-”
Farzam was bewildered, not understanding at all. Diener shrugged, and spun his tale indifferently to persuade him.
“It’s a simple matter. I want Sir Prime Minister to become a patriot hero. If you perform a bloodless surrender to save the Royal Capital’s people, everyone would praise you, Sir Prime Minister. And, if you persuade the King and he abdicates, your fame would be limitless no doubt about it. For such an esteemed person, we would have to prepare a corresponding rank.
Though he was masking it with pretty words, behind them importantly lay a demand for betrayal. He was saying to freeze the military while they were attacking the fortresses, to make the King abdicate, and to hurry up and surrender the Royal Capital. Change sides, and I will prepare for you suitable rank and fame, Diener was saying.
“Princess Altura who will succeed the throne and her fiance Prince Alan will one day produce a prince. He will be a star of hope, burdened with the next era of the Kingdom. His guardian, will be you, Sir Farzam. I request of you. You, who unites both good and evil, would surely be able to guide him.”
Diener took out a letter with Altura’s seal on it. It was all empty promises now, but this article had value that would one day bear fruit.
“……And you have proof that you’ll soundly keep that promise?”
“First of all, we’ve prepared the money to cover everything. Use it by all means, and work to avoid any futile bloodshed. Also, please take this.”
Vander opened a stuffed wooden box, and it was packed with an enormous quantity of gold coins. Money for the plan. Diener offered it to the Prime Minister.
And one more thing. An item which could be called his trump card. Carefully packaged, it was:
“Yes. One of the holy relics handed down the royal family, the Mirror that only members of the Unicafe lineage are allowed to hold. I dedicate this as a substitute for proof. I think you understand that Princess Altura is of the same intention.”
There were two holy relics of the Yuze Kingdom. The Sword in possession of Kristoff’s Unimat family, and the other was the Mirror of Altura’s Unicafe family. Their value couldn’t be put in terms of gold, and they were practically national treasures.
The air left Farzam’s lungs. It wasn’t a counterfeit. He could tell just by looking at the etched characters. Farzam was a man who had come into contact with many high-class items and was experienced in appraisal.
“……I do understand. I will exhaust my body and endeavor to avoid useless fighting. For the sake of the people.”
For the people–those words didn’t match him at all. For his own gain, how many thousands, how many tens of thousands of peasants had been killed by him?
Vander was hard pressed to hold back his desire to kill. If he relaxed, it seemed like he would cut him down.
“I am in awe, Prime Minister. What magnanimous judgement. …….However, the instant troops from the Royal Capital reinforce the fortresses, this conversation would be as if it never happened. Please, I beg of you to understand.”
“I know. But, it will take a month at the very least.”
“Naturally I’m aware. We will be making a, very slow, attack. Please take your time to persuade everyone.”
Negotiations ended. Farzam would abandon the fortresses for his own protection. He had no intention whatsoever of committing a double suicide with that fool Kristoff. If he could settle into the role of a guardian, there would be many chances to restore himself.
Deciding to forsake the current Kingdom, Farzam would exert his skill and contrive to take hold over the military and civil officials. This was something he was doing even now, and it would be extraordinarily easy.
Farzam left the private house behind. In it were Diener and Vander, who looked like he couldn’t agree.
“Sir Diener. Why would you make such a promise? Not only that, to even present the Princess’s heirloom, the Mirror.”
“It’s just a mirror. We can make as many as we want later. If we can obtain the Royal Capital with just gold and a drab mirror, I would call that phenomenal. Not a bad transaction.”
“Nevertheless, you would be employing a parasite. That man is a fiend, the root cause behind the country’s ruin.”
“…….Vander, do you really think I’d pardon such a man? A brute even more foolish than that dog? I’ll have that thing act as a clown until the Kingdom collapses. He’ll surely dance madly for us. And then, in the end—-”
Diener gestured, cutting his own throat with his finger. Vander reflexively shuddered.
Diener intended on putting all the onus on King Kristoff and Prime Minister Farzam. And then, he would kill them before they could say anything out of place. He would probably assassinate them after they had expended their use. It was like the noose was already around their necks, just the people in question didn’t notice.
“……You’re a fearsome man.”
“Vander, you’ve become one too. One man dirtied, ten killed, and thousands saved–that is the best course of action. There’s no need to waver. We ought to take the initiative.”
They would rebuild the Kingdom and save many thousands of people. For that sake, they would sacrifice many. What was bad about that?
While saving the country, Diener would carry out his own revenge. He himself had formerly been disposed of. He wanted them to taste hell.
Diener smiled inwardly. He had taken the alias Diener, stood as the Liberation Army’s Tactician, and led them to victory. Using his connections in the intelligence unit he was formerly a part of, he tore apart Farzam’s information network and took control. The Prime Minister had abused them until they died, never giving his agents ‘the carrot.’ There was no one who swore allegiance to the Prime Minister, and it had been simple to break them apart.
“It starts now. It all starts now. Vander, we go together. We’ll perform a clean sweep and build a new age for the Kingdom. We will be the cornerstones; we must show them the way.”
“Sir-, please use my power as you see fit.”
Diener stood up, but he stopped moving. He remembered a discomforting worry.
“……I just remembered. Where has the rumored Death God run off to?”
“Sir-, according to reports from scouts, she headed for Cyrus Fortress.”
“I see. I owe a debt to that thing from Belta. I’ll make her know the severity of her committed sins. ”
With a cruel smile on his face, he thought of the execution for the Death God.
“As soon as we return, send the soldiers to Cyrus and Sayeh. Send a messenger and offer a full report to Princess Altura. Sayeh Fortress will fall through force. As for Cyrus Fortress…”
Diener stopped his words there, and headed out of the house. Vander, confused, chased after him. The feeble-minded King, the clown Prime Minister, and the little girl who didn’t know her place. He would kill all of them. Diener would see to it that all who hindered the Liberation Army he had built and poured his lifeblood into would die.
He couldn’t hold back his smile, and he covered his lips with his hand. Glory was approaching before his very eyes. It was so close that he could reach it if he extended a hand.
Cyrus Fortress, Messroom.
The soldiers who were preparing for battle, after completing stage one, were resting.
Katarina was in a corner of the noisy cafeteria, brush in hand, for the purpose of a daily routine. This was a job she had undertaken on a whim, and it had stuck with her ever since. Her feelings, her thoughts; fun things, sad thing–she wrote all of them down.
She heard people called this a diary, but Katarina didn’t think so. She was carving proof of her existence.
Katarina didn’t fear death, but she was terrified of being forgotten. Hence, she was etching her existence in this white-paged book.
After she died, someone would see this, and know that there was once a person known as Katarina.
The instant she thought of that “someone,” Katarina’s face scrunched. She couldn’t control her emotions swirling with love and hate.
She pushed up her glasses and endured that overflowing something. The necromancer who had called her back to this hell, her step sister, and her innocent-looking step mother, who at the same time was her father’s killer, had raised her–those two were special for Katarina. They were targets she ought to resent, and also humans she ought to thank.
And then, the final one she thought of, the one who had become a greater existence than those two, was her Lord, Schera, who she ought to serve. Of course, she had no resentment towards Schera. She was strongly captivated by Schera’s almost severe way of life, and nothing more. And if Schera were to die, it would be nice if she could be by Schera’s side. She not only wanted to witness her way of life, but also her manner of death. Revered as a Hero, feared as Death–how would Schera meet her final moments? Was she mad for having such thoughts?
She exhaled, sighing, and looked up, and there was Schera peering at her, seemingly deeply interested.
Katarina involuntarily jumped up. She hadn’t felt a presence at all.
“C, C, Colonel!?”
“Do you have a habit of shivering in the cafeteria? Or is that a ritual before meals I wonder. How interesting.”
“T, that’s not it! This is, that is…”
“I don’t really mind. What you decide to do before eating is up to you. So, what actually are you doing?”
“……S, sir. I was, writing, this… diary.”
It wasn’t a diary, but when she went to explain, she couldn’t respond in any other way besides that it was a diary.
Katarina hid the book so it wouldn’t stand out. If Schera asked to see the contents, that would be bad in all sorts of ways. She touched her glasses, trying to deceive her.
But, Schera didn’t pursue it further.
“I see. I’m, pretty bad writing diaries. It seems hard, and also—-”
Katarina prompted Schera, who rarely decided to talk about herself.
“I don’t like thinking about the past. Same with the future. I decided to think only about the present. Or perhaps I can only think about the present I wonder. That’s why I’m bad with diaries.”
Answered Schera while eating beans belonging to the deceased Konrad. Her expression was aloof from the world, and Katarina couldn’t get a read on her emotions.
Katarina searched for the following words. She didn’t know what she should say.
“Well then, I’ll be at the field. Contact me if something happens.”
Interrupting Katarina’s salute, Schera lightly waved her hand and departed from the dining hall.
Though they had come this far fighting together, Katarina barely understood Schera. She didn’t know why Schera fought this far. She herself said that it was to eat and for revenge.
Then, why did she become so strong? What spurred Schera on to such lengths? It seemed she wouldn’t be told even if she asked, but Katarina wanted to know one day, she thought.
“……They’re growing day by day. I won’t ever tire of just looking at them, and if I diligently take care of them, flowers will bloom I’m told. Ah, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Just what kind of flowers would bloom? Small, white flowers she had heard, but was that true?
While watering them, Schera was taking care of the potatoes in a good mood.
Her fever hadn’t gone down from that day for some reason. Her nausea wouldn’t lessen. It was like something was trying to break free from the core of her body. That’s what it felt like. And, the greatest problem was that her appetite wasn’t very good, though she felt her stomach empty.
Despite being able to satiate herself with well water and Konrad’s beans, her loss of appetite was a big problem. She tried wracking her brain, but since she couldn’t think of anything good in particular, she decided to let it resolve itself. She couldn’t do anything about it anyway.
Also, she was busy with various things. Visiting the stables, watching the soldiers, gazing at the field, Schera greatly enjoyed her life in Cyrus Fortress, her home.
Yep. Death is dying.
Hopefully Diener will be her dinner for her Last Supper.