It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (112/121), enjoy~
May 30th, 1026th year of the imperial calendar.
A region called Kaktos exists in the south of the Great Grantz Empire. It is located to the south of Margrave Grinda’s territory and is the northern region formerly ruled by the Principality of Lichtine.
Therefore, Kaktos also has scorching winds throughout the year, and shimmering flames rise from the steaming ground.
Although the water supply has improved since the area was handed over to the Grantz Empire, it is difficult to say that the emaciated land has been completely revitalized. Still, the famine-stricken Principality of Lichtine was in desperate need of the land.
The land, illuminated by the intense light of the summer sun, filled with camps.
At the center of it was a tent larger than any other ― a command center.
The banner displayed was that of the Principality of Lichtine.
“General Ranquill, the messenger reports. It appears that Karl-sama will be arriving here shortly.”
The words of the staff officer were directed to the person seated at the honorary seat.
Ranquill Caligula Gilberist.
This man, who will be thirty-seven this year, is a hero of the Principality of Lichtine and is feared by the surrounding countries as the Raging Eagle of the Turning Sky. However, despite his talent, he is not well-liked by the nobles and lords because of his personality.
“I see… Let me know when Karl-sama returns.”
Ranquill gave a curt reply and then re-folded his arms.
He is struggling with a question ― whether or not they should attack the Great Grantz Empire.
“Still can’t make up your mind?”
In response to the bureaucrat’s voice, Ranquill let out a loud snort as he stared at the map.
“Of course not.”
“But there is no longer any strength left in our Lichtine to withstand it. It is not the people or the nobles that are the problem. It is the starving slaves who have reached their limits.”
“I know what you mean. I never thought the evils of slavery would erupt in this way at all…”
Without water, crops cannot grow. Without food, people starve and become emaciated.
Then, what happens to those who have not been fed enough, to begin with…? Can they stay quiet, knowing that they will starve to death?
No. All the hatred that has ever taken place will be directed at their owners.
“Lichtine has more slaves than commoners. It is easy to imagine the lawlessness that would ensue if they were outnumbered and unleashed en masse.”
“Then there is no need to hesitate, is there? The only way to survive now is to rob other countries.”
There is no water, and food is scarce.
This led to anger among the slaves, which in turn fed the discontent of the people and accelerated the tyranny of the nobility.
“At this rate, Lichtine will be destroyed in a year, or at the earliest, six months.”
Civil war is not the only factor that can destroy a country. Starving people means starving soldiers, which leads to a decline in national power and allows other countries to invade.
“I can only think that Lichtine is cursed. The government was finally under the leadership of Karl-sama, but it has been thwarted.”
The only way to avoid a pitiful end is to invade other countries and take their territory.
With the cause of regaining the entire northern region, Ranquill wondered if he should invade Grantz. However, if they lose, they will not be able to regain the north, and if they have to pay reparations, their treasury will run out of money. But if they do nothing, either a famine will cause a civil war, or the Steichen Republic to the west will invade.
As if lost in a maze, the Principality of Lichtine was in a situation where it could not see the future.
“Then shouldn’t we switch to the Steichen Republic here? We will have water if we free the Zahle River, which they dammed up. They started it in the first place, so we have a good reason.”
“I thought about that too… considering the sacrifices and duration, Grantz is still easier to attack.”
At first, they intended to attack the Steichen Republic, which had dammed the river. This was because it was the Nidavellir faction that was guarding the border. However, the Nidavellir faction, which was supposed to have fallen behind, had recently regained its strength and increased its military force, and its security was becoming stricter.
In comparison, the Great Grantz Empire had just begun to take control of the northern part of the country and was finally getting back on track, with many forts still under construction, and there were several openings for attack.
It would take less time to regain the northern part of the country than to overcome the wall built to the west of the Principality of Lichtine.
Therefore, with an army of 30,000 men, they had reached the border, but the decision ahead was too heavy to risk the fate of the nation, Ranquill asked himself.
“Then let us first await the arrival of Karl-sama. There is a possibility that he will return with good news.”
Ranquill nodded without hiding his disappointment at the optimistic statement of the bureaucrat.
Like him, Ranquill does not have high hopes for the future.
The answer was already there.
“Good grief… Things don’t always go as planned.”
Ranquill’s gaze falls on a letter on the edge of his desk.
It is from Karl, telling him that diplomacy had failed. But the failure of the negotiations were to be expected. Still, there was certainly a small part of him that had hoped for it.
“If we can’t expect them to return it, then… we’ll just have to wait and see when the time is right.”
He has not yet informed the staff about this matter. This is because, under the circumstances, some of the Grantz might jump ahead of them. They are willing to tolerate a little looting, but they do not want to uproot anything. If they take what they want to take, their cause will become a joke. Moreover, considering the future, they do not want to lose their workers, and an army without leadership is no better than a ragtag mob. After taking back the territory, the key is how quickly the chaos is brought under control and maintained.
“For the time being, we should be glad that we were able to give Karl-sama some experience…”
If he had gone himself, the negotiations would have failed.
If it had failed, either way, it was not wrong to choose the right people in terms of giving them experience. Above all, it would be easier for someone as timid as Karl to make a mistake and not make the other party feel bad about it.
“General Ranquill, we have received a letter of protest from Margrave Grinda…”
“Again… well, it’s natural to feel uneasy when you have an army of 30,000 troops close to your borders.”
Ranquill smiled bitterly and put his fist on the tip of his chin, and snarled.
“Hmm… let’s say that we are here to welcome Karl-sama because of the unstable situation in the country and that we have no other intentions.”
“Understood, sir. But shouldn’t we move before Margrave Grinda gets his forces in order?”
“I know. But the southern part of the Grantz Empire is also unstable.”
The bureaucrat looked at Ranquill with a curious expression, as if it didn’t ring a bell.
Those who only see the outside of the Great Grantz Empire naturally react in this way.
However, an examination of the internal situation reveals that the surrounding circumstances are more serious than those of Lichtine.
The new prime minister has been pushing for reforms with authority, and this has created a huge backlash.
“He cannot gather his troops so easily. Margrave Grinda seems to be more in favor of the prime minister. He cannot expect support from the southern nobility. If that is the case, he can gather only about 5,000 at best. If it is that much, there will be no problem.”
The problems that come with being a major power are not small.
What should be noted is the movement of the Kelheit family, or prime minister, who unites the eastern nobility, but this too is not a situation in which an army can be easily moved. With the power struggle with the southern nobility at a standstill, if unnecessary sparks are created, fire will erupt from everywhere.
“Then, while the two sides are checking each other, we will surely take possession of the northern part of the country.”
“Then we’ll just be ready to march in at any moment.”
“That’s fine, but don’t rush the troops too much. Keep a firm hold on the reins of the slaves, for if we fail to do so, we shall be defeated.”
The staff went outside, and the messenger entered the tent breathlessly in his place.
“Urgent report! About 3,000 troops are on their way here!”
Ranquill looked at the map with one eyebrow raised and opened his mouth.
“N-no, we have also identified a flag with the emblem of a balance, and beside it a dragon on a black background.”
“Small country of Baum!”
Ranquill sat up in surprise and looked at the messenger as he leaned over his desk.
Those in the tent were also looking at the messenger, seemingly unable to hide their surprise.
“Yes, sir, they are coming straight at us, sir.”
“…Where are they?”
When Ranquill urged the messenger to look at the map with his chin, the messenger approached the desk with a panicked look, his eyes busily moving.”
“They are marching two cells (six kilometers) from here.”
“Why didn’t you notice until it was this close?”
“I apologize, sir. We were only focusing on the movements of Margrave Grinda, so we didn’t have enough manpower to discover the small country of Baum.”
“Neglect ― or perhaps no one was paying attention to that side.”
The small country of Baum has remained neutral until now.
If you peruse the history of this small country, you will not find any record of military operations until you go back to the founding of the country. It is only natural that they would not move. So it is not surprising that they would overlook it.
“…But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a blunder.”
Clamping his fist down on the desk in frustration, Ranquill was ashamed of his naive thinking.
“I’ve told myself over and over… how foolish it is to think that something should be there, or should not be there ― but I must remind myself once again.”
“It can’t be helped. No one could have predicted that the small country of Baum would come here and make a move.”
“Let’s form up the troops right away.”
Ranquill nodded at the advice of his staff and turned his attention to those gathered at the table.
“We have not yet decided to fight. First, we will send an envoy to buy time. In case a battle does break out, we will first line up three thousand slave infantry in the front ranks as a wall while we complete the formation of the entire army.”
Watching the staff members as they began to scurry about, Ranquill’s gaze once again fell on the map.
“…What are they thinking, moving here?”
There is too little information about the other party. They knew that a king had acceded to the throne in the small country of Baum.
At the same time, he had sent out several spies to find out what was going on inside the country, but they had nothing useful to offer Lichtine. No ― to be more precise, none of them ever came back.
“I guess the situation is the same in other countries. I don’t think they got much information. It’s scary when you can’t get any information like this…”
It seems that they had a dispute with the Great Grantz Empire at one point, but the alliance remained the same.
This is only natural considering the value of the spirit stones and spirit talismans produced in the small country of Baum and the great existence of the “Spirit King.”
“It is a small country, but also a great country.”
Ranquill smiles a self-deprecating smile as he now realizes the difference in the rank of that country compared to his own.
“First, though, the objectives of the small country of Baum…”
There must be some thought behind the move at this juncture.
However, it is unlikely that the purpose of the small country of Baum is in Lichtine.
With their small but fertile land, there is no reason for them to want the barren lands of Lichtine. Even with resources, they would be able to receive a large amount of support if they were to give the word to the Grantz.
Once again, there is nothing in Lichtine that Baum wants.
“Hah, I have no idea.”
Ranquill laughed at the conundrum that was thrust in front of him.
“If we don’t understand it, we don’t need to think about it. If we want to get an answer, we have to find out for ourselves.”
The smell of war for the first time in a long time ― Ranquill’s smile deepens at the tension that envelops his body.
He had the map spread out on the desk put away and replaced it with one detailing the terrain.
“Now, let us put aside our idle thoughts and deal with the problem that has presented itself before us.”
He looks down at the map, playing with the pieces in the palm of his hand and squinting like a predator catching its prey.
Ranquill was elated at the prospect of the struggle to come, but then a staff member approached him.
“A military envoy from the small country of Baum has arrived.”
Ranquill’s hand stops, glaring at the bureaucrat who has just informed him of the situation. The intimidation caused the bureaucrat to back away. Seeing the bureaucrat’s reaction, Ranquill pinched his finger between his eyebrows and looked up over his head to suppress his anger.
“Phew… I don’t like it. They are trying to test us as if they want us to fight them.”
They have 30,000 here and 3,000 there, so the difference in strength is obvious. But the small county of Baum is trying to provoke them, and it seems as if they are mocking them.
“Let’s go through them and ask them what they are trying to do.”
As soon as Ranquill said this, the military envoy of the small country of Baum came over.
It was a woman with beautiful ― no, creepy stagnant eyes.
Half of her body was severely burned, and even a man would have been put off by her appearance. She gave the eerie impression of a ghostly apparition who had no hope in this world and was dead while living. Her left cuff was swaying in the breeze that came in through the tent’s entrance.
“We are on a visit to Margrave Grinda’s territory in the Great Grantz Empire. I would like you to explain to me why you have gathered your forces on the border and why you continue to act provocatively.”
There is no greeting. The attitude was straightforward, putting themselves on the shelf, saying and doing things that provoked the other party’s anger, and even refreshing in a way that was beyond rude.
In the first place, the fact that the military envoy was a woman was something that Ranquill would like to complain about.
Even though the military envoys are by nature in a position to be protected, their lives could easily be lost depending on the other party’s attitude. Above all, it was insane to send her into the middle of a murderous enemy camp.
Even so, the woman did not seem upset, and apart from her rude attitude, she struck Ranquill with a good feeling that she was a woman with a lot of guts.
“I am Ranquill Caligula Gilberist. We have no intention of antagonizing you, Envoy of the small country of Baum. I am ashamed to say that the situation in my country is unstable, and I am only waiting here to welcome my lord, but I have no other intention. I hope you will understand.”
“I see, then you may explain directly to His Majesty the Black Dragon King.”
It was a reply that made him want to ask back.
However, without time to ask back, the military envoy of the small country of Baum left the place at a quick pace.
What was left was an indescribably strange atmosphere.
“…What do you want to do about this? No matter how much they want to, that kind of attitude is unacceptable. Wouldn’t it be better to make an example of them and cut off her head?”
Ranquill looked at the staff member’s advice with dismay.
“No, that would give the other party a good cause. They may be looking for an opportunity.”
“An opportunity? What do you have to fear when there are only 3,000 people on the other side?”
“Fools, they have the Great Grantz Empire behind them.”
Ranquill’s words brought a look of aghast reaction from the bureaucrats.
Finally, he seemed to have realized. Because Margrave Grinda is on the prime minister’s side, he cannot receive support from the southern nobles. However, if the small country of Baum asked for reinforcements, he would have to lend a hand regardless of the feelings of the southern nobles.
“Remember the words, “A small nation, but a great nation.” If they wanted assistance, Grantz would have to lend a helping hand, regardless of the feelings of the southern nobles. That is why we could not make a move, even if we objected to the king’s accession to the throne. The name “Spirit King” is such a heavy one.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Ranquill sat back in his chair and crossed his arms before vigorously gnashing his teeth. The staff member called out to him, feeling uncomfortable with his appearance.
“Then what are you going to do?”
“There is nothing else to do but wait. Be ready to greet them.”