Residents gathered around the city center’s plaza, their faces all colored with anxiety as they stared at the gallows within a fence encirclement. If it weren’t for the public executions starting, such a fence wouldn’t usually be there.
For the first time, a public execution took place within the city. Moreover, those executed would be commoners. Though, it wasn’t uncommon for countries to publicly execute commoners.
If a person were to ask the purpose of the execution, the answer would be to set an example. The person designated for execution is a proclaimed member of the Vincent party, calling for the overthrow of the Great Alexandros government.
“… Any suspicious movement?”
There, on the second floor of the building beside the gallows, Lavein, an officer of the Imperial Army, had taken position. He set off to the south, withdrawing from the conflict between the Empire and the Kingdom of Gran Flamm, taking it upon himself to quell the dissent.
To that end, they captured one from Vincent’s party, but that did not end Lavein’s mission. His mission was to capture and kill everyone belonging to Vincent’s party.
“There are no reports thus far.”
One of his subordinates answered his question. They planned to use the captured one to lure out his companions and nab them all at once. Though, there were no signs of them biting the bait yet.
“It’s as expected. No one would fall for such a simple trap.”
Lavein did not concern himself much with the planning, for he merely thought it would be lucky if the plan played out well.
“Do we proceed with the execution?”
“What of the crowd’s reaction?”
Most of those present in the vicinity of the execution platform did not truly wish to be there. Half of them were forcibly gathered simply to give an example.
“… No one is voicing out any complaints.”
No one would simply dare. After all, everyone already knows that speaking out about grievances would label one an accomplice. It was a lesson they learned through the lawlessness of the police force.
“Luring out the rebel army fails too, huh. Well, nothing more we can do. Commence the—”
“Hold on, what’s that?”
Just when he gave up on the prior proceedings in favor of starting the execution, it showed up.
A shadow in the air effortlessly floated across the fence, descending onto the gallows without a single sound. It was a black haired man donning an attire of black, an unfamiliar face as far as anyone present was concerned, yet everyone was able to deduce the stranger’s identity immediately.
The difference in color between the left and right eyes clearly revealed the person’s identity. To add, the spectacle before them mirrored the very same famous scene depicted in the minstrels’ songs.
“… It can’t be! How are you alive?”
A soldier not far from the gallows cried out in surprise. That man knows the one who appeared before them was none other than Rion.
“I cannot possibly allow myself to die now, can I? The person you are about to execute is Mister Dennis, instructor of Master Vincent. There is no way I am letting such a man die.”
“Vincent Woodville’s teacher?”
“Are you not aware? During our school days, Master Vincent had many instructors, many of whom were plebeians. This person is among those.”
It was beyond their knowledge that the man they caught was such a bigshot, and the thought flustered them. The bigshot in question, however, was only a person who helped Vincent with his studies, but there was no way the soldier could have possibly known that.
“Kill them! Both Rion and the prisoner!”
Lavein shouted from the window. He was also considerably flustered, but he still knew what to do.
Hearing Lavein’s sorder, the soldier brandished his sword at Dennis.
But the soldier never swung down his sword. A whirlwind swallowed his body whole, preventing the sword’s descent downwards, and before long, the flurry flushed into a bloody hue.
“I allow no one to lay harm to a person who had taken care of my elder brother.”
The one who appeared next was a beautiful blonde woman with a pair of emerald eyes. Commotion reverberated in the surroundings with her appearance alone. Everyone was familiar with her charming profile, for she was the heroine of the minstrels’ songs herself. Ariel Windhill.
“… Kill them! Surround them and kill them!”
Levain issued commands, but the soldier’s movements had dulled. It was shooting for the moon to expect common soldiers to face the heroes of the former Gran Flamm kingdom with bravery.
“Riflemen! Fill them with holes!”
In that situation, Lavein considered using guns, but they were equally useless in close quarter combat against Rion. Flames showered over the soldiers even before they could take a firing stance.
And not managing to fire a single successful shot, the guns spontaneously shot on their own accord, betraying the soldiers and injuring them in the process.
“All forces enclose the square! No matter how strong they are, they cannot possibly face ten thousand!”
The next plan was to overwhelm the two by numbers. This may truly have been their best shot at defeating Rion and Ariel, but Lavein did not take into consideration the duration needed for the troops outside the gate to reach the square.
“Then, how about I keep you company while you wait for your army?”
Lavein spun backwards at the unexpected voice behind him. There stood a man dressed in Gran Flamm’s knight uniform.
“No, you are mistaken. I had already thrown away my position as a knight of Gran Flamm. Now, hmm, I guess you can say that I am a knight of the Wonderland Mercenaries.”
“Bastard, who are you?”
The name “Wonderland Mercenary” was uttered, but Lavein held no inkling of understanding toward those words.
“I had told you just now, but words are futile beyond this point. I am Sol Aristes of the Wonderland Mercenaries. En garde!”
“Wonderland Mercenary” may remain a mystery, but the name Sol Aristes is reputable. Of the battle against the Demon God, the only one known to have survived was Sol.
Not able to receive Sol’s blade, Lavein’s head flew into the air in a single flash.
“… So weak. And they call this the elites of the Imperial Guard?”
“I guess this must be an elite in regards to the Empire’s army?”
Before he noticed, Rion had ascended to the second floor of the building.
“I’m talking about these soldiers’ mediocrity. I heard they weren’t strictly trained, but this is too much. I might even win against ten thousand of them.”
“Maybe we should further our investigations. The real elites should exist, but until we make certain of that, I would constantly worry about a surprise attack.”
There must be former knights of the late Aquasmea house, including knights and soldiers of Gran Flamm, who were absorbed into the Great Alexandros Empire after Gran Flamm’s destruction.
“Then, what is the plan after this?”
“The arrangements for the south remain the same. We will crush the ten thousand dispatch today. After that is the administrative army. Though with troops placed in this border like this, I doubt the administrative army will be any better.”
The target of the attack to the south was the army. If the administrative army set to maintain the public order were crushed, the empire loses the capability to suppress the growing rebellion southward. Rion wanted to exacerbate the rebellion’s spread in that region.
Though the territories south of Bandeaux up to the Mikuri River were offered to Rion, it did not truly concern him. He accepted the request under consideration of joining the Gran Flamm Kingdom on the common front, but now that the kingdom had proven themselves unworthy of his trust, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
“Look into the Imperial Army, especially the one under Lancelot’s direct control. It is likely to be the elites, but don’t be too fixated on them.”
Sol was surprised to hear a voice suddenly behind him and looked back. He witnessed Chandra, clad in black, kneeling with his head hanging low towards Rion.
“Let Ain know this. The dispatched army of ten thousand was already crushed. He should start laying out the groundwork on cities beyond the Administrative Army’s reach.”
It was Ain’s mission to spread along the scale of the rebellion. There was much to do: incitement, procurement of weapons, and funding. All this time, Ain had been preparing for it.
“Also, let him know that once the actual movement starts, have the quick-response army support them. That’s all.”
Additionally, members of the Wonderland Mercenaries mixed in with the commoners to carry out rebellious actions. Initially with activities mainly focused on verbal influence, they now transitioned toward armed struggle. It seemed as if they intended to replace the Vincent Party, but the purpose was entirely different.
“By the way, will you be conversing with the man we recently saved?”
Sol piped in once Chandra had disappeared on Rion’s instruction.
“Ariel would be the better fit for the job. A person like him would merely view me as Vincent’s servant. I doubt that he would pledge allegiance to someone like that.”
Dennis’s loyalty lied with Vincent. The way Dennis saw it, Rion was of similar standing, so even if Rion saved Dennis’s life, Dennis would not offer up unquestioning obedience.
“Is it different for Mistress Ariel?”
“Ariel’s popularity differed from Master Vincent…”
With his gaze trained on the plaza past the window, Rion suddenly stopped talking.
“Is there something wrong?”
“… Why is that man holding Ariel’s hand? That’s definitely no way to greet any woman, right?”
Listening to Rion, Sol stopped by the window and also peered down. In the center of the square, Dennis was certainly clutching Ariel’s hand while animatedly speaking.
“Is that not a custom of the common folk?”
“Even if they were to shake hands, there’s no need to hold her hand for long.”
Sol wondered whether he should be glad that Rion’s strong feelings for Ariel still remained or if he should rebuke his lord for the inappropriate spark of jealousy.
**ED NOTE: Yah for ya wussies who can’t handle some spicy vanilla. Beware of handholding in the upcoming scene :^)
“… Why the hell are you holding my hand right now?”
“Huh? I mean, didn’t you also want to hold hands?”
Then appeared a presence that further complicated the situation. Alice suddenly took ahold of Rion’s arm and held their bodies close.
“I didn’t ask for that. Get off me.”
“Isn’t it fine? I wasn’t able to participate this time, so I’m so bored~”
“That doesn’t even make sense. Hurry, get off me. Look, Ariel’s watching us!”
So Rion who was thoroughly entangled with Alice was harshly scolded by Ariel later.
During this farce involving Rion, the army of ten thousand under preparation to charge the square was attacked by the Wonderland Mercenaries and ultimately destroyed.
The disturbances within the south of Great Alexandros will only intensify from this day onwards.
From the defeat Great Alexandros suffered in its attempt to invade Gran Flamm and the combination of the subsequent escalation of rebellion in the south, the successful processions of the continental conquest led by the Great Alexandros Empire finally met its first major stumble.
In order to break free from this series of failures, the empire had gathered its associates for a meeting.
“The southern rebellions had intensified, and the number of cities that had fallen into rebel hands currently number five. This number only refers to the major cities, not the smaller communities surrounding them.”
“How did it spread that much?”
Lancelot failed to comprehend how the rebellion within the empire could intensify to the point that caused five major cities to fall. He who was born and raised into an influential aristocratic family did not recognize the power of the masses, unlike Maria.
“It seems that they had blended into the cities and attacked the administrative offices unannounced, catching them off guard.”
“What are the stationed troops doing then?”
Lancelot had placed numerous forces to preserve the order of the cities. He could not grasp for the life of him how those soldiers lost to the common folk.
“It seems those cities all fell before the stationed troops were able to do anything.”
If this was true, then there was no meaning in deploying the stationed troops. Lancelot’s anger continued to grow further.
“They were occupied with too many priorities. Increasing the government’s army and establishing an administrative force to name a few. The stationed troops likely focused on only increasing its numbers, so even their officers were simply chosen from recruits.”
Though their numbers increased, there was no one to properly train them. Even if they do have superiors, their numbers pale in comparison to the total manpower. These conditions made them vulnerable to attacks, and such a fragile organization had no idea what actions to take when challenged.
That was exactly why they became the main targets of the insurgent influencers.
“… Then, what are these administrative troops doing?”
From his subordinate’s explanation, Lancelot deduced that the fault doesn’t lie with the central army alone. The fragility of the army itself was due to the inner politics that formed within it.
“The central army was preoccupied facing the Gran Flamm Army, so they couldn’t spare a hand towards anything else.”
“… Rion’s doing, huh?”
Rion had made his appearance in Bandeaux, and that very information had shaken the entirety of the Great Alexandros Empire. Furthermore, the man was able to single handedly defeat the guns of the empire; although, in truth, he had Alice’s assistance. With this, the empire was pushed to reform its military strategies.
“They were called the Wonderland Mercenary troops, correct? How many are there?”
“We do not have a tally of their total numbers, but we assume them to be around two thousand. Each has their own demonic beast, so we must think of them as a demonic beast cavalry.”
“Two thousand strong demonic beast cavalry… are they powerful?”
“In open fields, they are unbeatable, sire.”
The demonic beasts boast an overwhelming mobility, and the central army were forced to face that while lacking in firearm provisions. The battle had almost left them helpless.
“Sige defense then.”
“Truly, sire, we have concentrated our forces into a city with a proper government.”
Though he referred to it in such a fashion, having concentrated their forces merely meant that they retreated to cities with tight defenses and holed themselves inside.
“Can’t we use the border troops in this battle?”
The army placed toward the border against the Merica Kingdom was considerably trained. Lancelot thought of using those troops in the battle against the Wonderland Mercenaries.
“The Merica Kingdom has still amassed their troops within the borders. There’s a high possibility that thinning down our border army would invite an invasion.”
The Empire’s battle with Merica remained ongoing. It was more surprising that Merica Kingdom had not attacked the Alexandros Empire even now.
“Have we confirmed any reports on whether Gran Flamm had allied themselves with Merica?”
“We only have information regarding Merica’s refusal to alliance.”
“… Then what should we do? Should we dispatch the southern army?”
“It is exactly that moment that Gran Flamm awaits. The events in the south are division efforts to thin down the army.”
The Alexandros Empire had already surmised Gran Flamm’s plan. However, even if fully aware that it was a mere diversion, it had escalated to the point where it could no longer be ignored.
“I know that. I’m asking you what must be done.”
“… We must invite Gran Flamm’s main army to the imperial capital and eliminate them once and for all. Once the central army falls, the diversions lose their meaning.”
“Isn’t the central army simply awaiting our movements?”
That was the main purpose of diversion: to get the opponent to react to it. If one thinks about it normally, once the diversion fails, the main army would not act.
“We will only pretend to move our army. Then, we will spread misinformation to the Gran Flamm’s side.”
“… Will this play out successfully?”
“It will, sire. We have already made preparations in the past to ensure its success.”
Having made so many traps to use against the kingdom, they only were making use of one of them.
“… Even if that were to succeed, there’s still something I want to reaffirm.”
It’s not as though Lancelot doubted Prime Minister Bolt’s plans. Afterall, before he founded the empire and even afterwards, the prime minister’s schemes had all worked in their favor. However, with Rion joining the fray, a new worry had surfaced within Lancelot’s mind.
“What is it, sire?”
“Once we eliminate Arnold, the Gran Flamm Kingdom will parade under Rion’s flag. I take it that you had already contrived plans to defeat Gran Flamm with Rion as its king?”
He recognized Arnold as a rival and harbored a high estimation of the young king, but Lancelot cannot help but recognize Rion as even greater than Arnold. It was always that way in the past, and Rion’s recent appearance had put them in this predicament.
“… Gran Flamm will no longer be a threat once we annihilate the main army.”
“The main army, you say? So you’re saying that the Wonderland Mercenaries pose lesser threat than that of the kingdom’s main army?”
Prime minister Bolt’s words only seemed like a mere front in consideration for Lancelot.
“They are indeed a fearsome force, but a mere two thousand army cannot possibly stand against our own.”
“If only that’s the case…”
The two thousand army in question was presently cornering the ten thousand army of the administrative force. As Lancelot initially thought, Bolt’s words were merely tough pretense.
“… Sire, while this may not be the place for me to say this…”
Prime Minister Bolt sensing Lancelot’s doubts indicated that there remained a plan at hand. These words were also out of worry that Lancelot’s capabilities would be doubted, especially now that Maria’s consecutive failures dropped her influence.
“What is it?”
“There are other ways to defeat the enemy other than facing them on the battlefield.”
“… That’s true.”
Lancelot’s face clouded as he figured what scheme his subject referred to. Bolt’s plan referred to Rion’s assassination. Lancelot was not the type to deny this form of stratagem, but he still felt that it was shameless.
“The plan is now proceeding, sire. If it goes well, we will surely receive good news soon enough.”
‘That would be splendid.”
“We will also proceed with the plan against Gran Flamm concurrently. Is that fine, sire?”
With Lancelot’s approval, the Empire’s countermeasures were now set in motion as they accelerated its preparations to intercept Gran Flamm’s assault.
Two months later, two pieces of good news reached the Alexandros Empire’s throne. The first one regarded the march of Gran Flamm’s main army, and the second one involved the successful assassination of Rion.
The decisive battle of the imperial capital now draws close.
Translated on 6th April 2021
Translation by Hikkinomori Translations
with the kind permission of the author
All rights to Ayato-sensei