Everything around them was soot, scorched by the massive explosion from Megumin’s spell. The air was still hot, causing the world to appear hazy and shimmery; Kazuma’s senses ebbed in and out, slowly returning to him. The ringing in his ears died to a dull roar underlined by the thud of his heart. He spotted one of the undead shuffling toward where he Aqua, her face and knees against the ground with her butt in the air. His hands slid against the loose, blackened dirt fighting for traction as he fought to move.
A glass vial of green fluid was half submerged in the dirt, Kazuma scuttled his legs and arms to move forward a little and grab for it. He brought the vial to his face and bit down on the cork to extract it and rolled over onto his back to pull his short sword. He emptied the vial onto the blade.
Pushing off of the ground he charged the last one of the demons, his weapon gleaming in the smoke-diluted light with holy power entrusted to the next attack by the vial of oil.
Kazuma bowled the creature over, tackling it as the short sword slid into its chest with a wet thunk. He and his target bumped Aqua from the side and toppled into the dirt with him pinning the thing to the ground as they landed. He drank in a mouth full of ash and hot air before coughing and rolling off of the demonic creature onto his back.
“That’s the last of them,” he managed, sputtering to get clear his mouth. His energy spent, he could feel himself sinking into fatigued slumber. They’d bit off more than they could chew this time—this had nearly been it.
Something below his leg tugged at him, trying to move from under his angle. He tried to lift his shoulders to sit up or push off of his hands, but his muscles didn’t respond. His body wouldn’t respond, but there was something nearby moving.
“Get your foot off of my hair, you fucking NEET!” Aqua yelled, her arms and legs audibly flailing against the ground.
He sank away, his head falling limp off to the side. As the final threat faded away so did he, drifting into a well-deserved sleep.
After the battle [revised]
The Grand Fulham Kingdom failed to take over the royal capital. Due to the betrayal of the former Winhir Kingdom nobles, the Great Alexandros Empire is to further expand its territory.
The majority of the whole area of the former Grandfram Kingdom, 80% of the north and 80% of the south are already under the control of the Great Alexandros. And the same applies to the central and eastern parts except for the area of Bandu.
The Great Alexander’s Empire is a completely prominent form among the three nations, and it is also a matter of time to become the ruler of the former Grandfram kingdom.
The reason is that the Great Alexandros empire has been spreading to raise its nationality, and the actual situation is slightly different. The area covered by the Great Alexandros Empire in the northern part of the former Kingdom of Winhir Kingdom is only a submissive aristocratic territory, which is like an enclave.
Then, what happened to the other areas is that while there is no ruler, it has turned into an outrageous area where thieves are crawling.
Even though they won, the Great Alexandros emphasizes the number of soldiers in the battle against the Grandfram Kingdom. Until it recovers, it is not in a state where the army can be turned except for the battle with the Kingdom of Fatillars.
Under such circumstances, the restoration of security came to be in charge of the aristocratic army, but it was less than half of the north to be able to turn around on the scale of the aristocratic army.
On the other hand, Grandfram Kingdom is a place that wants to get a chance of counterattack, but it is not easy. There is not enough strength to rematch with the Great Alexandros.
Originally, because there was not enough military power to build a defense war, we chose the operation called the recapture of the royal capital. Furthermore, it was impossible to go offensive with the reduced strength, and it was hard enough to harden the protection around Bandu. Before that, it is also necessary to establish a new system. The Grand Fulham kingdom was not in a position to move.
But it can not be left forever. Even while the Grand Fulham kingdom has not moved, the Great Alexandros has steadily consolidated the occupied territories.
“The person who was searching for Win Heal has returned. From the conclusion, I think that the invasion of Win Heal should be postponed.”
Conference seat. To Arnold, who became King of the Grand Granum, Secretary of State Said reports the findings of the former Winhir Kingdom.
The northern part considered to be the most suitable for attempting to expand the territory. Arnold has no idea of the idea of Chancellor Said, who says he should forego the invasion.
“It seems wilder than expected. The scale of the thieves is considerable, and having a half-dominated army could cause unignorable damage.”
“What are the nobles of Alexandros doing?”
“If you try to kill it, it seems that you have failed”
“… How big is it?”
The noble family army who betrayed is ten thousand. It has been defeated in the battle at the time of withdrawal, but it should still have been reduced by a third. The army that was immediately betrayed by the former King Granfram’s magic activated lost its sense of battle and was trying to escape.
Assuming that eight thousand remain, Arnold can not imagine the scale of thieves that can not be defeated.
“I do not know the whole picture. It seems that the maximum was about 2,000 while I could confirm it.”
“… Two thousand or so. There are many bandits of that size.”
The number of two thousand is not the number that a thief and a fool can do. However, it is not the number the noble family army is afraid of. Arnold judged that the total number of thieves was many times this.
“Perhaps, and it may still be increasing.”
“Why is that?”
“The northern part is now a paradise for the thieves. There are plenty of robbers, such as the house of the aristocrat who has lost the Lord, the warehouse, etc. There is no aristocratic army to disturb it.”
Wynn Former House and King. The former was the head of the subordinate nobles, and the Udine family of the Lang minister. There are many noble houses that have been destroyed. Noble houses following the Grand Fulham kingdom have also abandoned the territory in the north and are following Bandu. The north is a mountain of treasure for thieves.
“It is not always the case that those who intend to take away the treasures left behind in them are thieves from the beginning. The servants, the people of the people etc. take away the treasures. Of course, the thieves will try to take them away, There is one way. ”
“We are going to be thieves too”
There are plenty of treasures without having to compete with one another. That’s right now.
“… do you come up with something terrible?”
“Now that’s the situation, but it may eventually evolve into a battle between the thieves. If there is an opportunity for invasion, it will be time to do so.”
Until the thieves kill each other and reduce the number. There is no guarantee that the Great Alexandros will not move until that time. That’s why Seyed Chanel says “if it exists”.
“How is the people living in such a state?”
Not all people living in the north are thieves. There are also people who are trying to carry out ordinary life without giving a hand to evil.
“… I live my life”
“What does it mean to you? Do you say that Minato says you can live calmly?”
That should not be. ThievesMothBaccoThere can not be an easy life in a place where
“… Abandoning the people who are suffering, I can not claim the king of Grandfram Kingdom”
“People from other countries”
“No! It is the people of Grandfram Kingdom! What do you do without thinking so?”
Arnold’s aim is to reclaim all territory. All the people living in the territory of the former Grandfram kingdom are considered to be their own people.
“… I understand your feelings, please think about the reality”
“Is it a reality?”
“We can not afford to send soldiers in sympathy for the people now. What will you do if you break the soldiers? What if you can not fight against Alexandros?”
As Sade Chancellor says. You should refrain from sending troops except for strategic purposes to defeat the Great Alexandros. It also tells Arnold.
“First of all, build up power and defeat the Aleksandros empire and reclaim the territory. The action for the people is from that”
Arnold called Lambard who became the leader of the New Imperial Guard with his throne.
“A noble family who had a territory in the north. Can I lead the army to achieve peace in the north?”
“I will do it with your order …”
“Are you the opposite?”
The leader of the Knights of Lambert, who was questioned, did not say it could be done. Arnold received that the opposite intention.
“Even if we were to defeat the thieves and try to restore security, we do not think that would benefit Japan.”
“The reason is?”
“How many nobles will come back to Bandu?”
“… That’s right”
A noble family with a territory in the north is in Bandu not because of loyalty to the Grandfram kingdom. Such aristocracy is not without, but it is because it is difficult for many to return to the territory alone. If it were to command the north to rule over the Grandfram Kingdom by dispatch, it would remain in the territory.
That way you can avoid the fight. If the Great Alexandros empire strikes the territory, then it is better to flee to Bandu again. Depending on the conditions, there is a way to surrender.
“Even if you can increase your territory, it will only reduce the number of soldiers. It will be quite devastating, so there will be no financial advantage.
Arnold knows that much. Still I do not understand the feeling. Because the resurgence of security in the north is not an idea but an idea.
“I think that securing the protection of Bandu is a priority at this stage”
Grandfram Kingdom is giving up fighting with the Fatillars Kingdom. To be precise, they decide not to offer from themselves.
It is not a bargain. Now, even if we intervene in the south, we only turn the people’s animosity towards ourselves. Even if you can secure the control area in the south, it is thought that only people’s revolt will occur there.
It is the idea of the Grandfram kingdom that even if it fights against the Fatilras Kingdom, it wants to make a defense of the Bandhus, not the south, and a second round of capital battles that should be tried after that.
“… first is the west”
Bandhu is surrounded by mountains and is a land easy to protect. The highway extends from Kamark to the four directions in the east, west, north, and south, and the border with other territories along the highway is the key to protection.
Since the east is a road leading to Ox and Hashiu, it was necessary to solidify three defenses as the immediate response was unnecessary.
Of these, the priority should be given to the western border leading to the royal capital and the present empire.
“Yes, I think first in the order of west, then south, then north”
South is the second leading to the Kingdom of Fatiliras. It is determined that the defeat of the Fatillars Kingdom is not so far.
“How do you protect specifically? The gun is still not easy to prevent that explosion.”
It’s about a cannon. The cannons themselves are not seen by the people of Grandfram Kingdom, so they are called explosive balls from the flying and exploding iron balls.
“That’s it. For now, I’m thinking of responding by increasing the wall thickness more than usual.”
“It should be prevented …”
“I’m thinking of reinforcing it with Made, but this is where I want the cooperation of the Fatillars.”
It is natural for the magic of the earth attribute, the magic, but the knowledge of the Fatillars is the best. Unfortunately, Charlotte was first class in personal magic, but he had little knowledge of sorcery. The unique magic that is generated from years of research is something that can not be transmitted to girls who marry to other families.
“We’re working on the construction of the fort, later … … Is it possible that Alexandros will attack by then?”
“I can’t say absolutely, but I think it’s small. There should be considerable damage to Alexandros. There will be no incursions, at least until it’s recovered, and until the guilt with the Fatillars has been reached. I have judged. ”
“… I understand that the response will change even if it goes out. I understand. So proceed with it.”
The effect of losing the former King Granfram is a sad thing for the former king, but there is little. Arnold quickly assembles his vassals and works on things one after another without stagnating government affairs.
As for the former king, it is not because Arnold is superior but because it is the present Grandfram kingdom that there is no confusion. There are no aristocrats who complain and can not afford to complain. Even if Arnold is stupid, he has no choice but to unite under the new king to overcome this crisis.
◇ ◇ ◇
After the meeting, Arnold went to the back of the castle. It is a place where Eyriel and Charlotte are located. Go through the hallway and hit the door in front of the room you have reached.
Upon hearing from inside, Arnold opened the door and went inside.
“My Majesty. Isn’t it unusual to come at such a time?”
Charlotte was in the room. I’m a little surprised that Arnold has done it.
“Oh, I want to change a bit … there’s no Frau?”
It was not Charlotte that he wanted to see, but rather Frau. I can not see the appearance of that Frau, so I have a sad face.
“Grow is with Ariel.”
“Oh, I can not do it …”
Arnold does not say to go to Ayriel. Arnold knows that Ariel’s evil feelings towards him have not yet disappeared. I didn’t feel like I was stimulating it.
“… what happened?”
During the day, during the day, you can not see Frau unless it is during the day, but Charlotte wonders Arnold who has visited the room. I know that Arnold is very busy right now.
“As I said at the beginning. I want to change my mind.”
“In other words, there was something that would not be clear without playing with Frau?”
There should be other ways to change your mind. In such a situation, Charlotte thought that it was a long time to come to the back and choose to play with Frau.
“… I became king”
“Yeah, I know.”
What’s up? I thought Charlotte like this.
“I feel that I have understood the feeling of my father a little since I became king.”
“Aren’t you a deceived forerunner?”
Charlotte does not have a very good impression on Arnold’s father. The cause is that they tried to use themselves politically.
“Before I became king I was dissatisfied with my father’s practice, but now I am the same.”
“… what is the same?”
“I can not do anything I want to do. My father may have been the same. As a king, I may have been doing something contrary to my will.”
“Do you do that?”
Charlotte is worried about that. It is unbearable to try to use them for politics in the same way as the former king.
“It can’t be done without doing it.”
“In the north, it appears that thieves are rampaging. There is no aristocrat to crack down on it. How do people live in a land where there is no one to do anything in the first place?”
Charlotte has no answer to Arnold’s question. Charlotte was the daughter of the family. After marrying only with Arnold, he hardly ever left the castle, and he did not know much about the people’s lives.
“I thought I had to save such people as a king, but I can not do that.”
“Why not? If your Majesty wants to do that, isn’t it good to do it?”
“I don’t have the power to do that. No, I have no force in the north to put out in the north.”
“… if it is … no, I can not understand that”
There is no power. My feelings do not fit for that reason. If it seems to fit, I do not want to do something in the north.
“… what would it be if it was Rion?”
“… I don’t know him enough to answer that, but I think he won’t give up easily if only one thing is certain”
Born as an orphan in a poor town, Rion desperately saved power to protect Vincent and Ariel. It did it without giving up what it thought impossible if it was normal.
But if you tell this to Rion, you will say, “I didn’t get the power. I couldn’t protect the two because I was helpless.”
“I guess so. I will not give up … and what can I do with it …”
I think that is what Charlotte says. But things don’t solve with feelings alone. Don’t give up first and keep thinking about it. Arnold thought that he could only do it for now.
Arnold walked out of the room. The legs stop in front of the door.
“… Charlotte. Thank you.”
“I’m glad you were there. I thought so much more now.”
“… I’m not doing anything”
“Even if so … it helps to have someone who can speak complaints.”
The loneliness I felt for the first time after becoming a king. Arnold knew how hard it was to show weakness in front of his subjects. I felt thankful for the time to return to a mere person instead of the king.
◇ ◇ ◇
When Arnold and Charlotte are talking in the room. Aeriel met with the visiting Prince Alex of the Kingdom of Ox. Ariel doesn’t want to see him separately, but Prince Alex is also used to it. I am preparing to have time to talk properly.
“Oh, it looks good. Next time, how about this?”
Prince Alex has prepared many gifts. And it’s a gift for Frau. If it is a gift for oneself, it will uselessly ask back, but if it is to Frau, Airlie will also return as it is. It is a strategy that I thought well.
“Yeah, this is my favorite. This is cool, isn’t it?”
Prince Alex took out for FrauMothKoshiraA small sword But the black glowing blade does not seem to be very good for children. The eyes of Frau who saw it are shining.
“It’s not just cool. This sword has a built-in fire attribute magic. It’s easy to use a magic sword. How is it?
Prince Alex was successful in taking care of Frau. But Ariel, looking sideways, has a cool face.
“… hey, I’m thankful for the feeling, but I wonder if it’s more like a girl?”
Prince Alex’s gifts are all about knights, armor, swords, and armor. Frau is delighted, but as Airlie wanted to try to look like a girl.
“I hear that Princess Hula likes this style?”
“Yes. I originally wore it, but I like it strangely.”
You have to be strong to go on a journey to find Rion. That’s why Ariel was also training a young frau. In addition to magic, I asked the Sol to teach the sword, and I made the dress of Rion imitating as a training at that time, but Frau is a great favorite of the knight dress and should not wear other clothes It had become.
“If you’re doing this, it looks like your father”
“Is that so?”
Unfortunately, Frau has not inherited the beauty of Rion. Ariel thinks that this is good because I think that it is too beautiful to live on.
“Hey, it looks just like hiding the lower half of the face this way.”
“Hmm? It’s true.”
Frau is indeed like Rion, with a puckered cheek hidden. Ariel, who had been with me for a long time, noticed this for the first time.
“When I was a child, I would change my face. But I don’t know if I’m on the side. Because Princess Frau looks like both eyes, it’s beautiful. ”
Prince Alex explained the reason for Ariel’s surprise.
I am always a well-dressed man, Prince Alex, but now he looks quite mature.
“Even this is a parent of five children”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I don’t have many side rooms. I can not afford to do that for the second prince.”
“… Speaking of which, who is the first prince?”
Prince Alex has a brother. This was something I knew from the beginning, but this is the first time I’ve heard a personality. After hearing the story of the child, I suddenly wanted to hear it. Not as the first prince, but as a brother.
“It’s the opposite of me, it’s a serious, well-meaning, highly-skilled man, very talented man. If the kingdom of Ox is not a small country, but it is born in a more powerful country, it may take the world.
“… You’re the older brother, you can say that way.”
Stir fry. I did not expect Prince Alex to give up my brother until now. And the king of the next generation of the kingdom of Ox was so excellent.
“Before I knew that man, I came to think that my brother was good to be born in the kingdom of Ox.”
“Yes. In the case of a large country’s king and prince, you have to fight. I understand how innocent it is.”
In other words, Prince Rion’s Rion’s comment is more than his elder brother. Ariel is concerned about the reason for evaluating Rion so far.
“… hey, is it okay to ask?”
“Anything that can be answered”
“What do you know?”
Prince Alex knows Rion’s information he does not know. Ariel thinks this is correct.
“… The era is a rage. In a rage, a hero is disliked and pulled out to the frontstage. This is what I know.”
“Yes, I know one such person.”
“Well, then that person is a hero. Eventually everyone will know him.”
Prince Alex has a situation that I can not say clearly. Among them, Prince Alex tried to tell Ariel what he could do. Rion teaches Ariel when he appears.
The Kingdom’s strategic goal of recovering the former capital had not been achieved. Furthermore, due to the betrayal of some of Erwin’s former vassals, the reach of the Empire expanded.
It now controlled the West, eighty percent of the North, around half of the Southlands, and the western fringes of the Eastern regions of what used to be known as Gran Flamm. Bandeaux and the region immediately around it remained outside Lancelot’s grasp for now.
It was now clear that, out of the three remaining splinter kingdoms, the Great Alexandros Empire was the one that won the war, and the complete reunification under that banner was simply a matter of time…
At least according to the propaganda being spread by the Empire’s operatives aiming to build up the prestige of the new Emperor. The reality of the situation was a bit different, especially up in the North within the borders of what used to be the Windhill Kingdom. Not all of the nobles there had sought vassalage in the Empire. The lands of those who did were isolated and scattered across the domain.
What surrounded them was bandit country born out of a vacuum of power.
The Empire’s victory over the Kingdom had come at a great cost to manpower reserves. Until those losses were replenished, it could only deploy its soldiers to one theater of war: the South, against House Fatillas.
In normal times, local noble retinues and territorial militia would take over the burden of maintaining the public order in a situation like this, but the long months of war had decimated the North. Not even half of the territories there could field forces that were up to the task.
This should, in theory, be a chance for the loyalists to counter-attack but the reality was bleak. The Kingdom lacked the military strength to attempt a rematch with the Empire.
Even before the last campaign, the loyalist army had been hard-pressed for manpower. That had been the main reason behind the failed campaign to reconquer the capital city. Now, having suffered even more losses, the loyalist army was unable to pursue any sort of offensive actions. Just securing the wildlands around Bandeaux stretched the troops to the limit. And they had to maintain this new system of garrisons from here on. The Kingdom found itself paralyzed by present circumstances.
This stalemate would not last forever. The Empire was growing stronger, solidifying its grasp over the lands within its reaches, but Gran Flamm could only watch helplessly from the side.
With such a fate looming on the horizon, Arnold Highland, the new King of Gran Flamm, and Cid Lightham, the Prime Minister, were busy discussing the matters of the state in a nondescript conference room of Camargue Castle.
“The reconnaissance parties dispatched to the North have returned, Your Majesty. Having read the reports, I have to conclude our plans to retake these lands need to be postponed.”
The situation in the North seemed ideal for expansion. Arnold didn’t understand why the delay would be required.
“It is much worse up there than expected, Majesty. Banditry is rampant. Any force below a full army is bound to suffer major losses.”
“Banditry? What are the nobles there doing?”
“They have attempted to subjugate the outlaws. Unsuccessfully.”
“…How ‘rampant’ are we talking about?”
The nobles who betrayed King Edward during the last battle had ten thousand swords under them. True, they had suffered losses when the retreating army of the Kingdom brushed them aside, but that would be at most a third of the number. Witnessing the inferno from a safe range robbed them of their will to fight and made them flee, preventing any further losses.
If these remaining eight or so thousand of soldiers couldn’t deal with the outlaws, the scale of the problem must have been beyond Arnold’s wildest nightmares.
“The full picture is unclear. The gangs that our men managed to observe numbered as much as two thousand each.”
“…Two thousand. And it is probably safe to assume there is more than one band of this size.”
This was more than what your usual dim-witted bandit chief could manage. But also not a number capable of threatening the forces of local aristocrats. The natural conclusion was that the total number of the bandits far exceeded that figure.
“I fear they grow bigger with every hour, even increasing as we speak.”
“Why would that be?”
“The current state of the North is pretty much an outlaw’s paradise. Many small, local nobles perished in the war. That means a lot of empty manors and unguarded warehouses. They are spoiled for choice and not hindered by armed resistance.”
The marquess estates formerly under the control of the would-be-royal House Windhill; the lands of House Austin, second-biggest in the North that briefly had a prime minister as a head; those, and many other possessions of fallen noble Houses were ripe for plunder. And when one added the estates of the still loyal aristocrats who abandoned the former Windhill Kingdom to settle in Bandeaux… For a bandit, the northern territories were one shiny pile of treasure.
“Everyone is scavenging among the ruins of the fallen Houses. Even their former employees and peasantry joined the looting, and those people see only one path of keeping their gains from the hands of the outlaws.”
“They join the gangs.”
Once they joined the other brigands, their loot would not be challenged, and they would gain further opportunities to enrich themselves. This dynamic played out all over the northlands.
“…Quite the solution, that.”
“For a while, at least. We expect the situation to devolve into infighting between the bandit groups before long. If Your Majesty is still adamant about invading, that would be our chance.”
The Prime Minister advocated a wait until the turf war grinds down the bandit groups and reduces their numbers. Of course, nobody could guarantee the Empire would not move in with their armies at the same time. That was why Cid qualified his last statement with the crucial word ‘if.’
“What would happen to the civilians if we bided our time?”
Arnold’s question was pertinent. After all, it wasn’t as if everyone living there abandoned all rules of decency and law. There still should be citizens trying to carry on with their lives as usual, without tainting their hands with crime.
“…They would carry on as they have.”
“What do you mean by that? Is my Prime Minister saying that they are living on peacefully?”
That couldn’t possibly be the case. There was no peaceful life to be had in a land overrun by bandits.
“…We do not deserve the name Gran Flamm if we are going to abandon our people to suffering.”
“Your Majesty, they are subjects of a different crown.”
“Never! They are citizens of Gran Flamm! What future can be there for us if we resign ourselves to anything less?”
Arnold’s ultimate goal was the recovery of all the lands of the former Kingdom, which was why he considered all the people within its borders as his subjects.
“…I do understand Your Majesty’s feelings, but they mustn’t trump reality.”
“We cannot afford to dispatch soldiers out of sympathy. How would we deal with further losses? What if that made us unable to continue the fight against the Empire?”
Prime Minister Cid was absolutely in the right. In the current situation, any plans to dispatch the troops not directly aiding the war with Lancelot were out of the question. Arnold knew that.
“We must bide our time, Your Majesty, recover our strength. Then we can deal with the Empire and only after that we may think of regaining our dominion and sending relief to its people.”
Lambert, the new Knight Commander, was right next to the royal chair.
“If you were to be given the retinues of those nobles who held land in the North, could you restore the public order?”
“I will do as you order, My King. Nevertheless…”
“You are also against this then?”
No assurances were forthcoming. Arnold could only take this as an objection to the idea.
“Whether I succeed or not, there is no merit in that expedition, My King.”
“Assuming the public order is restored, how many of the nobles whose lands are affected does My King expect to see back in Camargue?”
The northern nobles didn’t reside in Bandeaux out of loyalty and love for their king. There were exceptions, of course, but most of them were simply unable to safely return to their lands on their own. If the Kingdom’s army could re-establish its dominion over the North, they would return to their fiefs and remain there with their retinues.
This way, they would be able to avoid taking part in the conflict. And if the Empire attacked again, they would flee to the King’s western stronghold once more. Or even negotiate favorable terms of surrender with the invaders.
“Furthermore, expanding the area under our control would decrease the number of soldiers available for other operations. There are also economic considerations. That land is devastated, it would be a huge drain on the treasury. My King, let me reiterate – I fail to see any merit in such an expedition.”
“Yes. I see that…”
Arnold knew all that. Nevertheless, this was against his every instinct. What made him so keen on restoring the order in the North was not a pragmatic calculation of profit and loss but his innate compassion.
“We should presently focus our efforts on fortifying Bandeaux, instead. That is the highest priority.”
Gran Flamm had already given up on the alliance with House Fatillas. To be more precise, the Kingdom would no longer seek such a relationship.
This was not due to change in the overall strategic situation of the war but due to the ongoing popular revolt in the South. If Gran Flamm intervened in that conflict, it would just gain the enmity of the people, threatening further rebellions after these lands were brought back into the fold in the future.
The Kingdom would only seek the help of the erstwhile Marquess if it needed help defending Bandeaux or recovering the old capital in the future.
“…I assume the western approach comes first?”
The land of Bandeaux was surrounded by mountains, making it easy to defend. It could only be accessed by four main roads leading away from Camargue in cardinal directions, connecting the barony with adjacent territories and other countries.
The road to the east led to Orcus and Hashu and thus was considered to be safe. The other three directions required extra fortifications, however.
The most pressing priority was the western road that led to the lands under Imperial control.
“Yes, My King. The west, the south, and then the north. In that exact order of priority.”
The southern road lead to the Fatillas domain which made it the second most urgent to reinforce. That was because the Kingdom expected House Fatillas to fall soon.
“How should we go about it, pray tell? The firearms aside, defending against those explosive projectiles does not strike me as easy.”
Arnold was referring to the cannon shells. Nobody from the Kingdom had seen the Empire’s artillery yet, but it was known the weapon employed cast iron projectiles that exploded upon impact.
“We are still unsure. Increasing the thickness of the walls seems sensible for the time being.”
“If only the answer was that simple…”
“Reinforcing the fortifications with magic tools would be even better, but that requires the cooperation from the House Fatillas.”
That family specialized in earth magic, which obviously included earth-aspected magic tools. Unfortunately, Charlotte could be of no help here even though her magic prowess was first class, for she had no knowledge of her family’s enchanting techniques. A woman expected to marry away would obviously not be taught secrets painstakingly amassed over generations.
“I guess that concludes the subject of fortifications… Which reminds me. Any chance the Empire would attack us now?”
“It is hard to say for certain, My King, but I would not expect it. The damage they suffered was considerable. The High Command is convinced they will not move against us until they either replenish those losses or conclude the Fatillas campaign.”
“…And neither of those outcomes would change our present course of action, I guess. Proceed with the plans, Lambert.”
As pitiful as it was on the late king, the death of Edward had proved to have virtually zero impact on the kingdom he used to rule. The business of government carried on uninterrupted, and Arnold had nearly instantly taken control of his retainers.
This, however, was not due to the former Crown Prince’s outstanding talent, but because of the overall situation of the country. There were no disgruntled vassals because those who chose to remain did not have time for pointless unrest. The only way to overcome the current crisis was to close ranks and work towards the common goal, and this would happen even with the most feeble-minded of monarchs on the throne.
Having adjourned the meeting, Arnold left the room and turned his steps into the depths of the castle, to where Charlotte and Ariel had their chambers. He reached his destination soon enough and knocked on the door.
A reply from inside invited him to enter.
“My Lord Husband, it is quite rare to see you visit at this hour.”
He was welcomed by Charlotte, clearly surprised by the sudden visit of the young monarch.
“I cannot deny that, but right now I am in need of some respite… Is Fleur not here?”
The desire to see the young princess was the real reason for his visit. Not seeing her around made him visibly disappointed.
“Our daughter is with the Viscountess at the moment.”
“I see… That is rather unfortunate.”
He couldn’t just go to where Ariel was. Arnold was perfectly aware that the animosity Rion’s wife had felt towards him was still alive and well. He didn’t want to aggravate things further.
“…Did something happen?”
It was noon. True, this possibly was the only time of day Arnold would be able to find Fleur here, but still, given how extremely busy the young King had been, it was odd for him to visit at this time of day.
“I just craved a moment of peace, My Lady. As I have mentioned before.”
“Which, translated, means that something has upset my husband so much that he needed to refresh in his daughter’s company, no?”
After all, there were many simpler things one could do to clear one’s mind. To Charlotte, Arnold’s journey to the depths of the castle in search of Fleur could only mean something really serious had happened.
“…I have ascended to the throne.”
Charlotte couldn’t quite see where Arnold was going with that.
“And now, with the weight of the crown bearing down on me, I think I understand a little bit how Father must have felt.”
“The late King…”
Charlotte didn’t have the best impression of King Edward. Being used as a political pawn didn’t help that state of things.
“In the past, I have always been dissatisfied with Father’s methods. Now, I feel like I do no different than he did.”
“I cannot do what I really want to do. Maybe it was the same for him. Perhaps, as a king, he had to do the exact opposite of what his heart desired.”
“Is that really so?”
Charlotte was keen to hear more details. It would be unbearable for her to be once again relegated to the role of a bargaining chip.
“Yes, it is. Regardless of my determination, what I really want to do is just not possible.”
“…Can my husband humor me with an explanation?”
“Apparently, the North is plagued by bandits, and there are no nobles strong enough up there to manage the problem. Actually, how are the people there supposed to live without anyone to govern them in the first place?”
“A good question indeed…”
Charlotte had no answers for Arnold. She was just a simple girl from an aristocratic family who, even after the faux marriage with Arnold, hadn’t left the residence much. She had little idea of how common folk lived.
“It is my responsibility as a king to help them. I know that. But I am unable to do a thing.”
“Why would that be? No one is able to stand between a king and the object of his desire, no?”
“Because I lack strength. I lack the strength to convince my retainers. I lack the strength of arms. I do not even have soldiers to send to the North.”
“If that is the case… I can see how peace of mind would be hard to find.”
It was the feeling of powerlessness. And when that poison gnawed at you, there could be no respite for your heart. A person who could easily get over such a thing easily would not be interested in helping the citizens.
“…I wonder what Rion would do in a situation like this?”
“…I did not know him well enough to say. Nonetheless, it is certain he would not give up easily.”
Rion, despite his meager origins, had desperately struggled for power to protect Ariel and Vincent. Even though that goal had been next to impossible, he had never given up and eventually achieved it.
But then, if you presented the man with that opinion, he would probably tell you he couldn’t do anything and failed in his duty.
“Indeed. Not give up, eh? …Things I can do for the time being…”
Charlotte was right in a way, but just refusing to give up would change nothing. That mentality had to be backed up with action. Arnold was now convinced this was the only way forward for him in the current position.
He suddenly rose, nearly running out of the room, but stopped himself at the threshold and said, “Charlotte, thank you.”
“But what for?”
“I am grateful that you were here. The words may be late, but the feeling is sincere.”
“…I have not done anything though?”
“Even if you think so… Your patience in listening to my complaints was plenty enough help.”
There was a certain kind of solitude Arnold first experienced only after ascending to the throne. Only then had he learned how difficult it could be when one was not allowed to show weakness in front of one’s subordinates. A moment like this one, where he could return to how he was as a prince, was something he was grateful for.
While Arnold and Charlotte had their private conversation, Ariel had a visitor, one Prince Alex of Orcus. The Prince, well used by now to the personal dislike Ariel harbored for him, came well prepared to ensure prolonged conversation.
“…Oh, this would fit her splendidly. How about we try this too?”
For starters, he bought plenty of presents. He was aware that Ariel would refuse anything gifted to her but knew she would hesitate in rejecting gifts specifically arranged for Fleur. This was a splendid strategy.
“Excellent! And now, the final, most special gift of them all. Does it not look just fantastic?”
“Mhm!” came the enthusiastic childish reply.
Prince Alex revealed a custom-made sword and presented it to Fleur. Though, that lustrous black sharp blade was entirely unsuited for a child. It did capture the young princess’s sparkling eyes all the same.
“It does not just have the look, you know? There is a fire magic tool incorporated into it so it can be used as a magic sword. What do you think? Amazing, right?”
With Alex successfully obtaining the young princess’s favor, Ariel’s face grew bitter.
“You know… While I do appreciate your thoughtfulness, do consider something appropriate for ladies next time, please?”
Knight’s attire, a helmet, and a medley of military weapons composed the entirety of Prince’s gifts. Despite Fleur’s apparent enthusiasm over those items, Ariel brooded over the thought that her child should be more ladylike.
“But I heard that Princess Fleur prefers items like these?”
“Indeed, she does. I taught her how to use those myself but, lately, she became rather fixated on them.”
They needed strength to find Rion. With that notion in mind, Ariel had trained Fleur from a young age. Not only had she taught her daughter magic, but she had also relied on Sol to impart upon the child the ways of the sword. During those times, Fleur had worn clothing similar to Rion’s. Unfortunately, the little Princess had taken a huge liking to that kind of attire and turned unwilling to wear other types of clothing.
“Dressed in such an outfit she really resembles her father,” said Alex.
“Is that so?”
Sadly, Fleur did not inherit her father’s outstanding looks. But since such devastating beauty would render her life harsh, Ariel was not unsatisfied with that turn of fate.
“Here, if you hide this part, does she not look exactly like him?” said the Prince adjusting the hair framing Fleur’s face.
“Why, you’re absolutely right.”
When Fleur’s plump cheeks were hidden, she certainly looked like Rion. Although Ariel always remained by her daughter’s side, she had never noticed this before.
“Children’s faces do tend to undergo significant change, even if those constantly with them hardly ever seem to notice the differences,” mused Alex in response to Ariel’s surprise. “Her eyes are beautiful, though. I’m sure that she shall grow to be extremely beautiful in the future.”
“You certainly do know things, no?”
For a rather frivolous prince, he looked more mature than usual at this moment.
“Well… I *am* a father of five.”
“Please, do not misunderstand. They were not all born of different mothers. Such a thing is taboo for a second prince like myself.”
“…Now that you mention this, what kind of person is the first prince?”
Ariel knew Prince Alex had an older brother, but she never had a reason to wonder about his personality. Now that the topic turned to children, she found it relevant and wondered what kind of character he was as an older brother.
“My exact opposite,” Prince Alex started. “Earnest, popular, and, to top it off, excelling at everything he turns his hands to. If only he were born in a country stronger than Orcus… He could take on the world.”
“For you to brag about him like that… He must be that much of a brother.”
Ariel did not expect for Prince Alex to speak so highly about his older brother, the heir apparent of Orcus.
“In truth, those are my past feelings. Thanks to a certain someone I have learned to be thankful for my brother’s humble roots.”
“You cannot mean Rion?”
“Indeed, I do. If my brother was born as a king or crown prince of a larger country, it is likely he would have to lead the troops to war. Only recently have I realized just how reckless that would be.”
In other words, the Prince regarded Rion as better than the older brother he was so proud of. This made Ariel curious and prompted her to investigate the reason behind it.
“…May I ask one question?”
“As long as I am able to offer an answer.”
“What is it that you really know?”
It was clear that Prince Alex was privy to more than he revealed, even to information that didn’t reach. She was fully convinced that was the case.
“…In the turbulent times, those fated for greatness cannot avoid ending up on the grand stage, no matter how much they loathe the thought.”
“Ah, I have come across someone like that.”
“Is that so? That person will become a hero then, and everyone will come to know of him soon.”
There were circumstances preventing the Prince from speaking plainly but he found a way to tell Ariel what he knew all the same. Rion would most definitely appear soon.
translated on 31st March 2019
Translation by Hikkinomori Translations
with the kind permission of the author
All rights to Ayato-sensei