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Chapter 5 – War God’s Plot
The sun was setting. The wind, which had been so hot that it burned the skin, was beginning to turn cold.
There was a place where many bonfires were lit. There were more than five hundred tents huddled together like a city. This was the encampment of the Fourth Imperial Army. In the center of the camp was a large tent with a lily flag on a red background. However, there was no sign of the leader inside――the sixth princess, Liz, was currently working hard to raise the soldiers’ morale.
A short distance away from the tents, there was a tent where military discussions were held.
Seated at the top of the long desk in the center was the fourth prince, Hiro. Also seated around the desk were General Kylo and his staff, who were assisting him. And the first to open his mouth was Hiro.
“The reason for the gathering is… as you may have guessed.”
The staff members’ color turned pale as Hiro tapped the stack of reports and spoke in an insolent manner. No one would lookup. They knew what was about to happen.
General Kiro looked at Hiro in shock, as if he hadn’t expected to hear his name called.
“What do you want from me?”
“The report states that you have instructed several units to loot rations from neighboring villages.”
“Isn’t it a basic rule of warfare to procure food from the enemy?”
“Yes, indeed. But that is on the premise that you have to pay the price. Looting is a poor policy.”
“That’s a beautiful thing to say… But every country does it.”
“Grantz Empire respects military discipline. If you have the rank of general, you have to keep that in mind. Your actions contrary to that are very unacceptable.”
Hiro continued his words without hesitation.
“Therefore, I am removing your rank as general from you.”
“N-no, even though you are a member of the royal family, you do not have the right to make such an appointment! What authority do you have to do such a thing!”
“Yes, that’s true. But if I report it to the Ministry of War, I’m sure they’ll take the same action.”
“If you don’t want that, you’ll have to poison me or kill me without a trace.”
“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk nonsense.”
General Kylo’s face tightened. It was a reaction that showed that he knew exactly what Hiro was talking about and that Hiro could see right through him. Hiro thought that he was an easy man to understand, but he nodded his head without showing his mockery.
“Sure, it was a little excessive. I’m sorry, please forget it.”
“I hope you will not underestimate me. I would never do such an insolent thing.”
“Yes, of course, you would. You are an honorable man.”
Hiro, for a change, praised General Kylo.
“You must be aware of that. That’s why you must have noticed that the only people here are the staff officers who followed your orders.”
General Kylo’s eyes widened, and he looked around at the faces of his staff as if he hadn’t realized it until he was told.
“Then you understand what I’m trying to say.”
He didn’t seem to understand. His eyes swam in confusion. Hiro was dismayed at General Kylo’s lack of understanding but decided to help him out in order to move the conversation forward.
“You won’t trust me unless I tell you――.”
Hiro smiled, raised his hand, and held up his index finger.
“If you follow my instructions in the future, I will be happy to drop the matter.”
“I think it’s not a bad deal. Depending on your future achievements, I can encourage you to be invited to the center. In other words, I can even promote you to be a great general.”
“…Is that true?”
“It would be a shame for an excellent general like you to languish in a remote place like this.”
Hiro, who sighed deliberately, shook his head.
“However… the number of violations of military discipline this time is not something that can be hidden very well. It seems that word has spread from the unit you ordered.”
“So, I’m sorry, General Kylo, but I need you to lead the vanguard in tomorrow’s decisive battle.”
General Kylo showed obvious dismay. The casualty rate for vanguard units is high. If you are in command of it, you will be targeted by many enemies. It is not possible to just accept it lightly.
So, Hiro decided to give him a push.
“There are more of us here. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s not that I want to assign you to the vanguard unit without thinking. I want you to take the credit. Tomorrow’s decisive battle will be a victory for sure. But you won’t be able to take credit for it if you stay in the safe rear. And I can’t invite you to the center either.”
“That’s true, too.”
“You have to understand. I want a man of your caliber to be my general.”
“…..Make sure His Majesty hears you.”
“I promise you. I promise I will tell him.”
The words “report that he was killed in action” was bottled up, and Hiro smiled and held out his right hand. General Kylo grasped it happily.
“I’ll do my best, then.”
“I’m glad you’re convinced. Let’s let bygones be bygones.”
After sitting back in his chair, Hiro said to the silent members of the staff.
“You will be joining the vanguard unit. Is that clear?”
General Kylo would be leading the vanguard unit. There was no way they could say no.
“In two months, all of you here will be welcomed as heroes in the Great Imperial City.”
This was the deciding factor. The staff members were hesitating and then nodding. Hiro tried to hold back, but he couldn’t and broke out into a thin smile――he stroked his eye patch to cover it up.
“Then, you should all get some rest for tomorrow.”
“Ha, I’ll definitely take credit for this for His Highness Hiro!”
General Kylo exited the tent with a cheerful voice. The staff followed suit. With no one else in sight, Hiro turned his eyes to a corner where darkness had settled. Gradually, the outline of a person became apparent, and a man appeared. It was Driks, a former member of General Kylo’s staff. As he approached Hiro, he knelt down.
“We have successfully infiltrated the enemy camp. We’ve also prepared 150 camels outside the camp as instructed.”
“Right on schedule. How is the security situation here?”
“There is no problem there either, sir. We have them on high alert and have made some holes.”
“Have any enemy intelligence infiltrated?”
“We’ve received reports of four infiltrators so far.”
“Then instruct our men to apprehend them.”
Hiro stopped Driks as he was about to leave.
“Do you need anything else?”
“Can you spread the word among the soldiers that General Kylo and his followers are at rest?”
His expression told Hiro that he would have done so without being told.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
This time, there really was no one left. Hiro let out a deep breath and closed his eyelids. The notoriety of General Kylo for resting before the soldiers would spread quickly. Liz, on the other hand, is not resting and is working hard for the soldiers. This is sure to reduce the number of people who are dissatisfied with Liz. This will lead to an improvement in morale. In other words, unity. Everyone will continue to fight for Liz, sparing no expense.
“Now I just need to get the enemy numbers down.”
Hiro stood up and went outside. The night breeze shaking the bonfires caressed his cheeks. He turned his feet to the place where Ghada was being held.
Many soldiers were on guard outside the tent. Hiro gave them a word of encouragement and went inside.
The demon, Ghada, who noticed Hiro, raised his head from his hiding place.
“Are you alone?”
“Yes, I am. I have something important to tell you. I can’t talk about it openly when someone is looking at me, can I?”
“Hmm, you’re so dark I wouldn’t be able to see anything if I looked into your insides.”
“Anyway, is Mirue all right?”
“She’s fine. I’ve got her pretending to be a maid, and she’s following Liz.”
“I see… I hope she’s doing okay. What is it that you want to talk about?”
Hiro looked at Ghada for a while and then cut the rope that bound him. Looking at the rope that has fallen to the ground, Ghada gives a suspicious look to Hiro.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“I can’t even talk to you in that state.”
“You’re strange. You are very bold with your prisoners.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Hiro sat down on the ground and took a bottle of liquor from inside his black coat.
“Is that a magic trick?”
“I have a talent for storage.”
Hiro shrugged and tossed the bottle to Ghada. Ghada was tilting his head and blurted out:
“You don’t drink, do you?”
“I’m afraid I can’t drink. Oh, and before you get suspicious, I didn’t poison you.”
“I’m not worried about that. because, even if you don’t take such a roundabout way, you could just as easily cut off my head with your strength.”
Ghada, who opened the bottle’s lid, gulped down the drink with gusto and then opened his mouth.
“And what do you want? What kind of difficulties are you trying to pose?”
“If you don’t mind me saying, the Liberation Army will be participating in tomorrow’s battle.”
As if he had been expecting it, Ghada was unfazed and spoke up in response.
“There is no way we can work together. I’m afraid we’ll be in your way… What are you up to?”
Ghada gave him a sharp look. Hiro brushed it off with a relaxed smile before opening his mouth.
“I’d like to avoid any further damage in the future.”
“You’re only going to let the Liberation Army fight? If you do that, not only will some of them run away, but they might even turn on you.”
“No, the vanguard of the Fourth Imperial Army will fight first. There will be about a thousand of them. Then there will be fewer complaints.”
“And I have something in return for you. When the battle is over, I will free the slaves. And the mercenaries, too. I’ll even give them a place to live.”
“That’s such a good deal. There must be something behind it.”
“Exactly. But it won’t be difficult.”
After placing the bottle on the ground, Ghada looked at Hiro seriously, trying not to miss his every move. Hiro took a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Ghada.
“I want you to kill General Kylo and his followers who are leading the vanguard troops in the confusion of the melee. The details are on the paper.”