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Chapter 3 – Incident At The South
Azubakar, the capital of the Principality of Lichtine. In the Golden Palace, the symbol of their power, the nobles were rushing around, whispering to each other and voicing their dissatisfaction with the prince’s family.
Last month, the Principality of Lichtine had suffered a painful defeat in a battle against the Grand Empire of Grantz, losing its legitimate son and third son. In addition, in the south, the demon race, which is composed of slaves and mercenaries, is running rampant under the pretext of emancipation, led by a former slave girl, and there is nothing that can be done about it.
No one took the initiative to suppress the situation, and the prince himself, having lost his nerve, led a total of 4,000 camel cavalry, 2,000 light infantry, and 1,000 slave infantry into battle four days ago.
In the absence of the Lord, the throne room of the Golden Palace was filled with nobles with anxiety on their faces. It was about time that the clash results between the rebels and the prince’s army arrived.
Then a messenger rushed in, breathing heavily.
“My apologies, sir. The rebels have destroyed the prince’s army!”
The nobles groaned. They thought it was a victory report. One of the nobles then stepped forward and confronted the messenger.
“I-it’s a lie, isn’t it…? It’s not true, is it? It can’t be possible.”
His face was pale, and he shook his head repeatedly in disbelief.
It’s no wonder he can’t believe it. The number of rebels rampaging through the southern region is less than two thousand. In contrast, the prince’s army is made up of the best and brightest. Although morale was low after last month’s painful defeat, it has been raised to a perfect level by the prince’s own leadership. In addition, the people surrounding him were all great nobles with actual battle experience, so there should have been no problem with the chain of command.
“What the hell is going on?”
“The slaves’ infantry turned to the rebels, and the great nobles were all killed. The prince has fought hard, but his efforts have been insufficient!”
“T-the slaves, you say…”
The noble moved away from the messenger with a look of bitterness on his face, bent his knees on the spot, put his forehead on the floor, and began to sob. Some of the surrounding nobles even collapsed. Some were muttering that this country was finished, while others were making plans to go into exile. Everyone imagined that the Principality of Lichtine would soon fall, but there was someone who stopped such despair from spreading in the hall.
“Calm down. There is no time to grieve. We need to discuss the future. We can’t let the rebels do as they please.”
The nobles’ gazes focused on the person who stepped into the hall. The man stopped in his steps, perhaps because of the indignant stares, but he soon began to walk on the red carpet.
He was thin and frail, and his pale face looked as if it might collapse at any moment. He is the second son of the prince of Lichtine, a young man whom no one wanted as an heir because of his weakness. His name is Karl Olk Lichtine. His title is Count.
As he walked to the center of the nobles, he turned his pale, untanned arms toward the entrance.
“And he finally came, too.”
Marquis Ranquille, the guardian of the northwest border, entered the hall with an arrogant attitude. He snickered at the frightened nobles in a somewhat rude manner.
This man, now 34 years old, is a hero of the Principality of Lichtine, having defeated a 30,000-strong army of Steichen from the neighboring country two years ago. However, despite his talent, he was kept away from the center of the country due to his difficult personality and was left to guard the northwest border.
“I am very sorry to hear of the death of the Prince of Lichtine, but there is no time to grieve. Count Karl should take the name of the prince immediately.”
Marquis Ranquille, who had suddenly appeared on the scene and had the audacity to say whatever he wanted, was met with an angry outcry from the surrounding nobles.
“What do you think you’re doing? Karl-sama is too weak to unite the country――.”
“What do you mean? I don’t want to speak ill of the people who died, but the prince was a man who only sought profit and didn’t care about the country, and his rewards and punishments were not fair, and he only looked to the big nobles. Furthermore, the legitimate son is a foolish man with a fierce temper who easily falls into the enemy’s hands. The third son was also a mere breadwinner with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever.”
“You! You’re just insolent beyond belief!”
The nobles’ faces turned red with anger, and they closed in on Ranquille.
“Haha, I just told you the truth. And I’m sure you all are actually happy about it, aren’t you?”
“W-what do you mean…?”
Do you really want me to tell you everything? You should know it.”
In the prince’s army that went to suppress this time, along with the prince, many of the great nobles who can be said to be the cause of this country’s decline were present. The disappearance of those nobles means that the remaining nobles can take their place.
(Well… I won’t let them do whatever they want.)
The time has come to finally normalize the country. Even if the prince had not died, this country’s future was destined to be destroyed by civil war. There had always been a hint of it, but it had only been suppressed by force. It was inevitable that this time a rebel army was born.
(However… how can the situation change two or three times in such a short time?)
The heir and the third son, who was taken in by sweet words, died in battle, and besides, the rebels defeated the prince. Ranquille felt that he could have given a prize to the rebels for saving the country.
“But fortunately, the prince’s family still had some excellent people left. Karl Olk Lichtine, who cares for his people, respects his soldiers, and loves his men.”
“But as you can see, I’m weak. I could die at any moment. How can I unite the Principality of Lichtine?”
Marquis Ranquille smiled and nodded his head at the strong will in Karl’s words.
“I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know much about your body, but in this day and age, you never know when you’re going to die, and it seems to me that the healthier you are, the sooner you die.”
The most promising eldest son died, and the prince, who was in good health, died before the second son, who was ill and weak.
“Haha, that is certainly true…”
Count Karl laughed out loud at the irony of his father and brothers.
“Then, it might not be a bad idea to try being a prince until the end of my life. But will the people approve of me?”
“Don’t worry about that either. If you defeat the rebels who defeated the prince, the people will have to accept you.”
“Then, I will become a prince after I have defeated the rebels.”
Marquis Ranquille, who nodded his head enthusiastically, looked around at the nobles, muttering about his seriousness.
“Now, it seems that Karl-sama has made up his mind. What about you, gentlemen?”
“If Karl-sama has made his decision, then we have no choice. But how can we deal with the rebels who have defeated our elite?”
The nobles have forgotten how to think independently, and it’s disheartening to see how corrupt they have become.
(I’d like to kill them quickly, but I still have other uses for them. First, I have to squeeze the wealth they’ve amassed.)
Marquis Ranquille, who shrugged his shoulders, opened his mouth.
“We don’t need to go head to head with the rebels.”
“Marquis Ranquille… can you tell us more about it?”
In response to Karl’s words, Marquis Ranquille said, “Please wait a little longer.”
A few moments later, a man came running into the hall.
“I have something to report! The Fourth Imperial Army is gathering at the Berg Fortress, and I believe they are preparing to attack us!”
It was this report that he was waiting for. At this moment, Marquis Ranquille was convinced of his victory.
A man of unparalleled wisdom, a man that other nations had said, was too much for Lichtine. Marquis Ranquille’s smile deepened with joy at the opportunity to test again the wisdom that the prince had shunned out of fear.
However, this is not the case for the lords. The lion that dominates the central continent is about to attack. The hall was filled with murmurs and trepidation.
As if to reassure them, Marquis Ranquille raised his voice.
“Calm down! I have a plan!”
Marquis Ranquille was also skilled at controlling people’s minds.
If there had been even one old noble here, he would have revealed his defiance towards Ranquille. However, they had followed the prince and died in battle. Therefore, the only ones left here are the nobles who have become complacent. No one wants to lose their current position. More than that, they want to save their lives. That’s why, although they were complaining earlier, they now have no choice but to obey Marquis Ranquille.
“Karl-sama. We can leave it to the rebels to deal with the Fourth Imperial Army.”
“…You mean we should use the rebels against the Fourth Imperial Army?”
“Yes, that’s what I mean. There’s nothing difficult about it. According to my secret agent’s report, the Fourth Imperial Army will be led by the infamous shadow general. He is just an ordinary general who became a general with the generosity of General Loing. It shouldn’t be too difficult to toy with him.”
Ranquille dug into his pockets and spread a sheet of paper―a map of the Principality of Lichtine―on the red carpet.
“Now, first of all, I would like to ask the lords to gather their troops from the forts and cities. We can’t start anything without soldiers.”
Hearing this, the nobles hurriedly left the hall to call for their private troops that they kept in their territories. In times like these, those who move first will gain the most. However, those who lag behind will end up with a little reward. Having dealt with great nobles, they were well aware of this, and they were trying to win Count Karl’s favor by leaving the hall ahead of the others.
In contrast, those who brought soldiers but did not follow the prince, or nobles who did not have soldiers, would do nothing but throw away their private fortune. In no time at all, the hall was empty, leaving only the two nobles and the soldiers guarding them.
“Now that there are no more disturbances. Please do not tell anyone about what we are about to discuss. This is an important strategy for winning the war. Is that clear?”
Marquis Ranquille’s sharp gaze made Count Karl nod his head, clearing his throat.
“First of all, we have to guide the Fourth Imperial Army to meet the rebels.”
“Will the Fourth Imperial Army be easily led?”
“That’s why we’ll deliberately create a path for them. If we make the fort’s defenses thin, we can show them that they can march more safely this way, and the shadow generals who want to take credit will bite. Then we can lead them deeper into the territory.”
Count Karl’s face did not clear up even though Ranquille said confidently.
“He is a general of a great empire, right? Wouldn’t a general of a great empire be able to see through such a plan?”
“Human greed has no limits. If you flick the bait at them, they will bite. All you have to do is make them think that they are on a good track. An enemy with momentum is a scary thing, but an enemy army with momentum can be cooked any way you want it to be.”
Marquis Ranquille continued as Carl nodded.
“Next, we will see who wins and then attack the exhausted winner.”
“Fumu. We’re going for the fish out of the water…”
“Well, so far, it will certainly succeed. After that, it will be up to the soldiers to decide whether we can win or not… but there is one thing that bothers me more.”
“What is it?”
“It seems that the Republic of Steichen and the Grand Duchy of Dral have reached a truce. The fall of Felzen may have been a factor, but the death of the head of the Steichen Republic is most likely the main reason.”
“…That’s going to be another problem, isn’t it?”
“The Steichen Republic seems to be losing its unity. There is no guarantee that there will not be people who will attack us in search of an advantage.”
The Principality of Lichtine lost a lot of soldiers in its two defeats. As a result of this, their defenses outside of critical areas have become thin.
“The rebels, the Grantz Empire, the Steichen Republic. Our Principality of Lichtine is very popular, even though it is despised as a slave state by many countries.”
The Principality of Lichtine is a barren land covered with the Zigur desert, but there are many people who have coveted this land since ancient times. The reason for this is the existence of beautiful oases scattered throughout the Zigur desert. Spirits do not approach oases where people live together, but in other words, as long as there are no people, spirits will come them. If one could get their hands on an oasis, they might be able to gather spirits and obtain spirit stones. However, they could not bypass it. This is because the Principality of Lichtine is firmly connected to the Great Grantz Empire through the slave trade.
It was only last month, and now the relationship between the two countries has become cold.
“Therefore, this battle will be short-lived.”
Bandits and monsters are attacking the villages. If the people’s resentment explodes, a second or third rebel army will appear. If that happens, it won’t be easy to maintain the appearance of the country. Whether it is an invasion from outside or a collapse from within, the Principality of Lichtine will disappear from the map.
In order to avoid this, the only way would be to have a short war instead of prolonging it.
“Is it possible for Marquis Ranquille to do that?”
“Yes, it is possible. Therefore, I would like you to leave everything to me.”
Marquis Ranquille said confidently to reassure Karl, but…
(We are in an extremely difficult war situation.)
The number of soldiers that the Principality of Lichtine can gather now is probably around five thousand at best. This is not only less than half of the Fourth Imperial Army but also inferior to the rebel armies that are advancing with more troops in various places.
“Even so, I will definitely bring victory to you.”
This is a country where he was born and raised. He wanted to keep it alive at all costs. Marquis Ranquille began to formulate a strategy with determination in his heart.