After receiving reports that a significant number of the Great Alexandros army had left the capital for the south, Gran Flamm began to move as planned.
Unexpectedly, as they made their way to the capital, the cities they passed through had all surrendered one after the other, offering instead to march under Gran Flamm’s banner. Furthermore, those who accomplished that were the aristocratic retinues that served under Gran Flamm; hence, the supplementary forces had doubled.
Among those were some grievances that the retinues were making independent moves, but when those aristocrats revealed their faces full of expectations to be rewarded for their actions, Arnold couldn’t find it in him to rebuke them any longer.
He thanked them for their efforts and promised them appropriate rewards, but that in turn earned the ire of the aristocrats. After all, they expected that the territories they obtained would consequently fall under their domain as reward.
Arnold denied that such promises were ever made, but the aristocrats insisted that they were certainly promised such. When asked for details on how that agreement came to be, Arnold was greatly perplexed by their answers.
The pronouncements originated from Rion, and as they were all aware that Rion was of royal blood, the aristocrats accepted his words as a declaration from the royal family.
The truth of this was only half true. Rion’s messenger simply relayed to the aristocrats that the cities would all easily fall and that they should make use of that opportunity to gain military achievements. Additionally, if the Gran Flamm Kingdom refuses to reward them for their deeds, they should just take Rion for a villain who deceived them into this. This point was the truth.
A perfectly laid ruse it was. As the battle with the empire drew nearer, they couldn’t possibly afford to do anything that may displease the aristocrats, so the kingdom was left with no choice. They had to allow the captured cities to be given to their captors.
Even so, their participation in the decisive war against the empire was unpermitted. The distrust of the Gran Flamm Kingdom toward the aristocracy remains deep.
Instead, they were ordered to march towards the northern region. Similar to the ruse pulled in the southern region, they were to serve as a diversion to pull apart the Empire’s manpower.
After the issues had all been settled, the Gran Flamm army resumed their march, uninterrupted as they advanced forward, much like the way they had before.
“The battlefield will still take place in the imperial capital.”
Arnold muttered while riding his horse.
“The enemy’s firearms are powerful in defensive siege battles. I guess that this is a natural choice for them to take.”
Lambert, who rode beside him, answered Arnold’s mutters.
“That I know, which is exactly why I wondered if it was right to attack them.”
“Is there any other way?”
Obviously, there were, but the kingdom was too fixated on the capital’s capture to first see that.
“I would have liked to hear Rion’s thoughts on this.”
“… but we had completely earned his ire.”
Rion accepted the request on the condition that he take Ariel and her companions. Gran Flamm’s side accepted his conditions as they were, without asking for any reconsiderations.
And even if Arnold had asked for Rion’s opinions of the siege, Rion would simply repeat that he would only do what was asked of him. Arnold never had an opportunity to reveal a single part of the plan he concocted.
“There must be a reason that he initially accepted the task to recover the capital himself.”
It implied that there were other ways to capture the capital outside of an underground assault, and Arnold seriously wracked his brains in attempts for the solution.
“Just why do my superiors have so much antagonism against Lord Rion? Isn’t it normal for two brothers to consider cooperating for the same goal?”
The superiors Lambert referred to were Prime Minister Cid and Marshal Marcus. Those two refuse to accept Rion at all, only seeing him as an intimidating existence that threatened Arnold’s kingship without realizing that such a line of thought actually insults the young king instead.
“I don’t think they’re only doing it for my sake alone.”
“Rion’s essence is of a maverick. He breaks common sense and recontructs it.”
“In other words, he will cause a revolution?”
To topple the older dynasty and create a new one. Many such revolutionaries are chronicled within this world’s history.
“…That’s precisely the case. Cid and Marcus stand on the side of the old order, so instinctively, they cannot accept the situation.”
“But isn’t Lord Rion a fully-fledged royalty? Let’s say there was a revolution. Will it not create Gran Flamm anew?”
“Do you truly think so?”
“…No. Rion has no loyalty to the kingdom. I don’t think he will stay after this fight concludes.”
Lambert understood the young prince better than that. As Arnold’s royal guard, he observed Rion’s movements as attentively as possible. But even if he did understand, he did not want to recognize it, so his only option was to oppose the matter.
“I know how you feel. It’s frightening to take your eyes off of Rion.”
Arnold empathized with Lambert’s feelings. The both of them thought that Rion should continue taking the kingdom’s side. The fact would put them more at ease.
“If he had never been abandoned, he would have been… would it be proper of me to say that?”
“That’s right, but it could also be said that he wouldn’t have survived if he wasn’t abandoned.”
If it became known that he was born with heterochromia, he was likely to be killed on the spot. That’s just how those born with heterochromia were detested. The prime minister and the knight marshall may still harbor notions in line with that… “
That perhaps it is due to the curse of Rion’s heterochromia that the kingdom had found itself in peril.
“…As far as the circumstances surrounding him after abandonment, I suppose it is nothing short of a miracle that he still breathes today.”
No one can truly admit that Rion was fortunate to have been abandoned is almost nonexistent. In fact, Frey should have died if Ryou had never reincarnated into his body.
“That’s true. Those circumstances had made Rion who he is today.”
No matter how much Arnold attempted to envision an environment where a person would need to do everything to survive, he could not truly grasp the idea.
“This may be discourteous to his majesty, but would being raised in a castle result in a different Rion?”
“…It certainly would. The basis of his ideas and line of thought would differ.”
“And I wanted to draw strategies exactly from that line of thought. Any new information regarding the south?”
At the very least, Arnold wanted to grasp Rion’s ideas from his movements in the south.
“Yes, as expected, they are expanding their influence at an astonishingly overwhelming pace. If they continue at this rate, they will be able to subjugate the whole south.”
“How did they achieve that with three thousand troops?”
He knew that Rion would easily win in a battle, but to maintain control over a territory required military and politics.
“We don’t have detailed information in that area, but the territory seems to be generally stable.”
“Is there someone in charge of the whole area? Or could it be him… No, no, it can’t possibly be.”
Rion is the former lord of Bandeaux who had a remarkable ability to develop his territory. However, that kind of background wouldn’t help him easily manage military affairs. Something like that would require more people to perform as limbs.
As Arnold pondered over this, he forgot one crucial thing: in terms of territorial affairs, among the excellent lords within Gran Flamm that could only be counted on one hand, two of them reside in Bandeaux.
In the southern region of the Great Alexandros kingdom — whether the region still belongs to the empire is up for debate — the city called Clay had become the headquarters of the Wonderland Mercenaries. Despite the fact that it was not intended for military use, it remained the centermost point of the territorial management of the region.
“That man who had ‘been assassinated’… pushing his job on me like this, just where has he wandered to this time?”
Douglas, the former king of Fatillas Kingdom, grumbled his complaints as he was cornered by a mountainous pile of documents before him.
The one who answered was Charlotte, Douglas’s own daughter. The lady was assisting him in his duties, but the papers in front of her were much fewer. She was unable to put as many documents on her table as her father since Fleur who sat next to her would tear up the documents.
“West? Isn’t that the location of the empire’s stronghold? Just what business does that man have there?”
“He claimed that to weaken the empire’s military power, one had to reduce their weapons first.”
The Empire’s strength lay in the firearms that even novice soldiers could utilize. No matter how many soldiers of the empire were killed, they could immediately be replaced by another. To prevent this from happening, one must go against the core of their strategy: the firearms itself.
“…That may be so, but that’s still too dangerous.”
“This is exactly why he was ‘assassinated.’ It was to lower the Empire’s guard.”
“Surely, that can’t be the only reason for that, right? Now that the empire had sent assassins against that man, their reputation had been completely crushed to the ground. Many are saying that justice belongs to the Empire no longer.”
The group of Resist had assertively spread out this information. Thanks to that, those who actively followed the Empire within the southern region had significantly decreased.
“What’s with ‘that man’ way of referring to him?”
“…I can’t think of anything better.”
“Isn’t it fine to simply address him as Rion?”
“You do know that man is a member of the royal family, right? In terms of rank, aren’t I just a close retainer? I feel conflicted to only call him by name.”
Despite his secret ambitions to replace the royal family, he also consequently harbors loyalty toward them. The personality of the kingdom’s marquesses are just that complicated.
“But you already are aware that Rion hates that type of thing.”
“However true your words are, isn’t it a tad too early to decide on what title to refer to him by?”
“…Too early? Whatever do you mean?”
“Well, I mean…Let’s say you became his, you know? I would become his father in law.”
If Charlotte becomes Rion’s wife, Douglas would become his father in law. Since the Marquess was conscious of that, he chose to avoid calling him anything.
“That’s…not really the matter of being early or not.”
Her countenance turned cloudy upon hearing Douglas’s reply.
“Hm? Don’t tell me…you’ve been turned down?”
“I have not!”
“It’s just that I have a lot of things in mind…”
“I’ve thought that Rion is a very special person. It’s just, I wonder if it’s fine for a normal person like me to stay besides the likes of a person like him.”
It’s been a while since Charlotte felt this way, but now Rion had become a far greater existence than he was before. The burdens that Rion now carried upon his shoulders made Charlotte timid.
“…How complicated. I raised you with the intention of becoming the queen, so I don’t believe that you should be as worried as you are. On another hand, as your father, I do feel that you should be with a much more normal man.”
Douglas’s feelings churned together. He wanted his daughter’s emotions to be reciprocated, but if she were to be married to someone like Rion, any chance of her leading a normal life would be severed.
“You two, really. Put these idle talks aside and start working.”
From behind a mountain of documents, Cedrick Windhill voiced his complaints to the troubled Douglas. Rion had left the management of the controlled regions to these two former marquesses.
“Don’t say that, Cedrick. This is important to me.”
“WEll, if you ask me, it’s rather too late to worry about such things. I have gone over such grievances a long time ago.”
“How did you manage?”
“If it would lead to my daughter’s happiness, I have no choice but to accept it. Besides, with little Fleur by my side, I can enjoy these pleasant times. Fleur, won’t you sit here beside Grandpa?”
Saying so, Cedrick turned toward Fleur and smiled at her.
Fleur stood up from her seat and trotted toward him. She loved her grandfather who spoils her so.
“Flear, we are working right now. Do not disturb us.”
However, Charlotte was there to stop her. With two grandfathers who indulge Fleur too often, Charlotte wanted to be the strict presence to maintain balance.
Although slightly displeased, Fleur returned to Charlotte’s side, to the misfortune of Cedrick.
“See? It’s because you are too preoccupied with that. I’m losing my time to play with my granddaughter.”
“Don’t blame me for that. It’s true that we need to move forward with this.”
There was much to be done, for the prolonged conflict in the south had severely wounded the region.
“…It still remains that he managed to acquire this amount of documents.”
A majority of the documents before Cedrick and the others include reference data regarding the management of the controlled territories of the region. Numerous kinds of documents were gathered, and they ranged from agriculture, commerce, politics, among other things.
“The most astonishing ones were those that came from the empire.”
“What do you mean?”
“Perhaps it’s otherworldly knowledge, but there are contents pertaining to agriculture in the finest details. For Kanzawa to develop to such a degree, it all makes sense now.”
“I suppose we won’t need to consider how they obtained that information. The real surprise would be when they started preparing for this.”
Both Cedrick and Douglas already knew a fragment of the strength Rion now holds, as well as the preparation he had set for his revenge.
“There are also some formations in Bandeaux. Is it really fine to do all of this? If this succeeds, the ones who will truly be overjoyed would be the Kingdom.”
The plans lead the two most developed cities of the old GranFlamme Kingdom to succeed. If everything went smoothly, the southern region would become a far more abundant place. However, if that were to happen, the Kingdom would not stay still. Some sort of pretext will be concocted to steal back those territories.
And Douglas is completely aware of Rion’s strong wariness toward the Kingdom.
“These are all for those that live here. If they end up prospering, then that would be great.”
“My conscience does tell me that, but politics hardly goes well with conscience alone.”
Such is an opinion truly becoming of a former marquess, but Douglas had forgotten that Rion’s personality isn’t that naive.
“Rion mentioned that in order to steal a country, stealing territories would not suffice by itself.”
“Oh? Then, what should one do in such a situation?”
“You must first steal the people’s hearts. If you do that, once the country is taken, the stolen government will follow suit and stabilize itself.”
“…I see. So the basis of his scheme is to steal the heart of the people.”
Douglas understood once Charlotte explained it. He realized that all of Rion’s actions were done in consideration of the people ever since he became Lord of Bandeaux. He surmised that the reason behind Rion’s information management and dissemination must be all for that reason.
“It’s not something you can do with plans alone. Nobody would follow Rion as a result of his schemes alone.”
However, Cedric refuted a part of Douglas’s line of thought. The people that surround Rion the closest were those bound by absolute loyalty. A loyalty like that would have been impossible to attain by schemes alone.
“Then, what is it?”
“If I were to put it simply, it’s good faith.”
“Good faith? From a man known as the Ominous Strategist?”
During the time Rion spent as an aristocrat of the kingdom, he was feared by both allies and foes alike. An ominous strategist is the most apt way for them to describe him.
“It changes depending on the person. With Vincent, Rion had attended to him in good faith. He had never ridiculed him, but neither did he flatter him. He was the kind of attendant who would put on a stern face toward Vincent as long as it was for his lord’s well being.”
“Hence, as long as it’s for Vincent’s sake, Rion will perform heartless acts without hesitation. Even now and during all this time, Rion’s actions were done with the purpose to avenge Vincent. He had lived all these years to realize that goal.”
“It may be wrong for me to ask this but… was your son at that caliber of a lord?”
Vincent was infamous as the failure of House Windhill, and that was the estimation of his surroundings. His actions leading up to his death had made him known as a virtuous noble in the end, but they truly did not convey a single notion of improvement in terms of his capabilities.
“You might describe me as a doting father with this, but Vincent had potential. His potential just needed more time to develop compared to others.”
“Great talents mature late, doesn’t it? Those are exactly the words of a doting parent.”
“Proclaim as you desire, for I don’t care. However, Vincent’s words are now recognized by those in the southern region. It seems that the ones spreading those words were not Rion’s subordinates. In other words, all of such people are those who believe in what Vincent had said and acted accordingly.”
“… I see, hence the maturing late.”
Vincent’s reputation after death would no longer reach him; however, those who had been close to him would be overjoyed by it.
“This is also thanks to Rion’s servitude to Vincent. Afterall, it was none other than Rion who gave my son motivation, my son who neither had determination nor confidence. It’s only lately that I was able to feel gratitude for that.”
Rion was the one who supplied Vincent with motivation, and in a way, it could be said that was what led to his own demise. Vincent’s father, Cedric Windhill, has always been resentful of that.
“But really, the more you know about him, the more monstrous a man he seems to be.”
That said, Douglas could only look at his daughter Charlotte with worry. Rion who held extraordinary capabilities as a human being does not truly make him a superior partner for his daughter. There are multiple cases that exemplify how it works otherwise.
“Don’t look at me with those eyes. As I’ve previously mentioned, even I am troubled at how ordinary I am as a person. But I think that’s exactly why I must stay by his side.”
“What do you mean?”
“Rion is not alone. Ariel, too, has something different that is just as extraordinary. They both are people not fated to lead ordinary lives.”
“… That is true.”
Although Ariel was hidden by the shadows of Rion’s brilliance, she also had qualities that made her a great personage. She has the charm to lead people under her banner, and her personality carried a natural dignity that could convince people to follow her will.
“Like I said, as an ordinary person, I will let them live an ordinary life. Though I’m rather doubtful that it can be called ordinary. However, as both a wife and a mother with children, it is my duty to give them a place where they can feel the warmth of a family.”
Charlotte said this as she gently patted Fleur’s head. Watching her figure, Douglas nearly shed tears. His daughter had become stronger and had grown splendidly.
“That in itself is quite the task.”
“True. Rion has never been loved, so he doesn’t know how to show it either. Whenever he is together with Fleur, he becomes petrified on the spot. Right, Fleur?”
Douglas meant by the difficulties of creating a normal life didn’t seem to have been conveyed to Charlotte.
“On top of that, Fleur is also timid. What a troublesome pair of father and daughter.”
“That’s not true! It’s all Rion’s fault!”
“Hey, you have to properly call him your father, right?”
“But he says everyone calls him Rion, so I should just call him that, too.”
“…That shy man, really…”
The reason Rion uttered such words could be easily understood. He was simply embarrassed to hear Fleur call him father.
Douglas and Cedrick could not help but look on at the exchange with warm eyes. The warmth of a family that Charlotte spoke of could be felt from the spectacle before them. This is something that the two of them had long lost and forgotten.
Translated on 29th March 2022
Translation by Hikkinomori Translations
with the kind permission of the author
All rights to Ayato-sensei