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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
In a meeting hall in the imperial capital of Firuth, Emperor Amil, Prime Minister Mills, and a line of civil officials were discussing the problems of the day. Their agenda was the issue of the Libelikan rebellion, matters of the Mundonovan expedition and the manufacture of new soldiers strengthened by dawn; the commencement of Operation Heaven’s Sun.
“Lord Mills… I’m afraid to say that I must ask just where you will find the money, manpower, and resources for all this? Just reinforcing Verdun has put our economy into a state of poverty.”
Mills raised his hand and joked in a way that no one could tell how serious he truly was, “Don’t bring up irrelevant things, okay? If there isn’t enough we’ll make some, or at least squeeze it out. Coimbra, for example, had the internal capacity to rise up against us with force. This won’t bring us down, it’s merely proof that we’re being too lenient.”
“Prime Minister, they have raised a rebellion as a result of being pushed to the brink of death. Any more squeezing will only wring out blood. Your Majesty, why not cease enlarging the military and leave it where it is at now?”
There was, however, an objection to the cautious plan of the civil official.
“That would put our management of Verdun into a dangerous position. Rather than any promising new plans, we should put more funds into Operation Dawn.”
“No, we should simply abandon Verdun. If our foothold is trembling, there’s no point in a new territory.”
“That’s unreasonable. If we did that, all our investments will have been for naught. Try not to pointlessly suggest actions we cannot take.”
Rebuttals continued to fly between the civil officials, but no conclusion had been drawn in a scene that was no different from usual.
“Then we should exploit them as much as we can. Use them as a sacrifice to gain more control over Mundonovo. From there we’ll gain goods and enrich the empire. Am I mistaken?”
All went silent at Mills’ words, but Amil had no particular reaction. In short, the present course was to maintain course. That being the case, Mills’ proposal was the only one to be used.
“Mills, Operation Heaven’s Sun is fine, but what will become of Operation Dawn II? Tell me the situation.”
“I have already prepared for the addition. At present, children taken from the continent are being raised as the third generation. I’m thinking of merely transferring the energetic ones to Operation Heaven’s Sun. Lord Befnam expressed great interest in this too. If it proves successful, it will be less expensive, and the augmentation will be greater. Furthermore, the instillation of loyalty may already be half done.”
The present super soldier programs had been implemented by the previous emperor Befnam. The man had secluded himself in a church to fervently progress his mad experiments. The one who had unified their efforts under Amil’s reign had been Mills, who was observing Befnam to ensure he didn’t simply do as he pleased. They took the enhanced subjects to another location to be raised where they would undergo harsh training, and the education they called brainwashing. Their training took too much time, and if they could reduce that, the long term benefits would become much greater.
Still, for him to have dedicated so much of his own personal assets was beyond my expectations. There were rumors that he had unlocked the secret of the Sun Emperor, but it just might be true.
According to Mills, Operation Dawn, at present, would be impossible to progress without Befnam as it seemed he carried the key with him at all times. If Amil made the wrong move, it might disappear, or even be destroyed. To escape that predicament, Amil wanted to push the research, but not even as the incumbent emperor had Amil yet been able to fully comprehend all the details of operations Daybreak and Dawn. Befnam didn’t seem likely to hand over the details of his plans either, and Mills hadn’t been able to gain much information. Befnam was better protected at the facility than even the strengthened soldiers. Catching him unaware would likely be supremely difficult.
I really should have granted my father an early death, but he is already senile. One day I shall inherit it all. There’s no point in panicking now that I’ve come this far.
Personally, Amil was grateful that Befnam was cooped up at the research facility rather than saying unnecessary things. Naturally, killing the man right after being enthroned was too obvious in Amil’s book as all that would have bought him was animosity from those loyal to his father.
“More importantly than the fact that my father is in charge, I believe it would not be a mistake to say that the new plan has succeeded, would it not? Do something about the funds and supplies, and take however many more men you need from the continent. Make immediate arrangements to contact Ernarz.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Amil massaged between his eyebrows after giving his orders. The expedition was not going according to plan. Originally, he was supposed to have gained total control of the North-eastern region with his second expedition. He never expected that the force augmented with the soldiers from Operation Dawn could be repulsed. That was just how strongly the enemy was resisting. If he could recover, Amil would gain hegemony. All that was left to do was wait to see who would give up first.
He knew that the ruling Church of the Star didn’t have much territory nor military might, ruling over the lords in name only due to their holy status. For this very reason, the capture of Verdun had been so easily accomplished. The continental South-east was impious and many of the lords acted in self-interest, making it an area exceedingly easy for Amil to move through.
I should spread out the Verdun lords, and bring in more augmented soldiers. I need to crush internal rebellion immediately. I’ll also have to make an example of them with a thorough punishment this time.
Falid had been appointed to lead ten thousand men and his Black Sun Cavalry against the rebellious Giv and Karmbeeth, and he had fought his way to the border of Horn. There had been reports that their forces were superior, so he expected him to launch an invasion of Karmbeeth soon. He had arranged to send thirty thousand men to the southern region of the province Gemb wished to retake: Longstorm. Provided they arrived before the capital fell, they would be able to alter it into a protracted war.
The Red Circle Army that had sprung up in Coimbra wasn’t a threat, but Amil had informed Bartheck of Bahar to go deal with them if they became too dangerous. There was a strong sentiment that mere plebeians could not change the situation all that much. In the first place, they had about five thousand soldiers in South Coimbra, which would easily be enough to deal with the problem. Small fires went out quickly. Gemb was the real trouble.
He didn’t think at all of stopping the expedition like some of his retainers did. It was the worst possible course of action as doing so would instantly hurt the authority of the emperor, making all his investments a waste. What he had to do was spread disorder on the other continent and take advantage of it. There was already a plan in action to achieve just such a goal, fanning the flames of the anti church sentiment all over the continent; from flame to hell fire was only a matter of time. Amil thought it best to strike once the burns had festered.
Taking a short breath, Amil spoke to end the meeting, “I’ve collected all your thoughts. I will provide my orders later, so…”
Just then, there was the sound of a knock on the door. Entrance to the room had been forbidden for the duration of the meeting unless it was an emergency; guaranteeing that something had happened.
“Pardon my intrusion!”
An imperial guard entered and saluted.
Amil suppressed his anger and pressed the man, “Just what has happened?”
“Yes sir! South Coimbra has fallen into the hands of the rebels from the north! The enemy commander is Elgar Ludwig, eldest son of the late Grohl!”
“It’s hard to believe that this occurred so suddenly. Just what were Wilm and Gaddis doing? They couldn’t be equaled by children and plebeians?”
Amil was completely flabbergasted. He had information that the red circle army had begun an offensive, but he had never thought they could capture anything so quickly. He would have to ask Bartheck about it later. Defeat at the hands of the plebeians brought great shame to military men.
“Yes, sir, that is…”
“What? Out with it.”
“Ah, yes. Noel has escaped from Willa island and shown herself in the ranks of the red circle army! Many betrayed the floundering Coimbran army and may have greatly increased the strength of the rebellion.”
Noel. The Fiend. Noel Bosheit. The little girl Amil had pardoned to Willa island. She was a foolish woman who stubbornly denied all his requests for her to join him. It seemed as if she had bared her fangs once more at the behest of an old grudge.
“Truly a foolish woman. To think she couldn’t read the flow of time right to the end. Contact Bartheck at once and have him send troops. Bahar’s elite have been prepared in advance just for this purpose. We’ll send reinforcements from the imperial capital, so have him begin to dwindle their numbers in advance.”
The imperial guard was unsure of what to do upon hearing Amil’s orders.
“What are you doing? Did you not hear my orders?”
“M-major general Bartheck is…”
“What exactly is major general Bartheck doing? I’m really curious. Go on, hurry up and let me know.”
Tears began to stream from the eyes of the imperial guard as he cried out in response to Mills’ enquiry, “Major general Bartheck has fallen in battle with the enemy in Yavits pass, South Coimbra! The one who killed him was Noel Bosheit of the rebellion!”
“Bartheck… died, you say?”
“He lead his cavalry and war wagons to capture Madress. That was when he received a surprise attack! Baharan casualties numbered over one thousand!”
His bitter voice caused a stir in the meeting room. Bartheck’s death in battle had serious implications as he was not only a major general, but also the governor of Bahar. The fact that a rebel, furthermore the Noel who had been such a thorn in their side, had taken his life would surely cause the enemy forces to gain strength no matter how much Amil hated it.
Another soldier ran into the meeting hall, “I have a report! Rebels claiming to be the Bahar liberation front have appeared near the western Baharan capital of Loldo! The insurgents are marching on the city as we speak!”
Western Bahar had been in a state of unrest for some time. Likely, they had thought Bartheck’s death to be a good opportunity. They were a gathering of fools who thought they wouldn’t be defeated, and still held on to the antiquated idea that they could regain the glory they had before they were dominated by the Empire. This was how they repaid him for overlooking them, and Amil regretted letting things get to the state they were in. A thorough purge was the best way after all.
“Your Majesty, this is a serious problem!”
“What shall we do, Your Majesty!?”
Deeply disturbed, Amil gave his orders with his usual expression. He was the absolute ruler of the Libelikan continent. He would not be defeated. He could not be defeated.
“Mobilise the thirty thousand men we’ve prepared in eastern Bahar and notify them to be on the defence at once.”
“We won’t be able to hold Longstorm!”
“The officers, people, and goods of Longstorm have been evacuated to Horn. In the first place, that province was created to guard against Gemb. The land itself has no real value. It’ll be fine to prepare another operation to retake it.”
Gemb was burning with a passion to regain its lost territory, but from Amil’s perspective, it wasn’t a big deal. Thinking about the situation, the salient would have been next to impossible to defend.
“Inform Falid that there is no need for his Black Sun Cavalry to defend Horn, and that he is free to approach the Baharan situation however he pleases.”
“But what shall we do about Giv and Karmbeeth? We have reports that if they attack, they will rush through and take the land like an avalanche.”
“Those pathetic provinces can fall. Above all, we cannot lose the highly important province of Bahar. I believe we will need the strength of the Black Sun Cavalry once more if we are to stop the fiend. Make preparations at once, and defeat the rebels. This time we’ll execute every last one of them! Kill every last retainer who supported them!”
Amil bit his lip as he looked over the civil officials who had begun to move without any sense of urgency. If Bahar fell, it would certainly shock the imperial officers and men as well as the plebeians; the military men especially, considering the large number of them who came from Bahar. Karmbeeth and Giv were an eyesore, but the liberation front had to be dealt with. Gemb was the largest problem, and Longstorm unfortunately had to be abandoned. Preparation would be made to defend Bahar, and the problems would be dealt with one at a time.
But to think that Noel bastard would repay me like this even after all I’d given her after she was defeated. I’ll take the heads of those in the liberation front, and give Bartheck’s soul some rest!
Amil trembled in silent rage, and Mills approached him with his unchanging gentle expression.
“Your Majesty, there is just one thing I would like to test, but…”
“What is it? Don’t hold back, just tell me.”
“Yes, well I would like to implement a plan I have for creating distance between Coimbra and Gemb. Well, it seems like it’ll be difficult, but even if we fail at first, it may have come back to benefit us.”
“A plan to break them apart?”
“Yes. The topic is giving little Elgar the chance to rejoin house Wardka. Let’s make him officially a viceroy. If he accepts it, good, and if he doesn’t we’ll spread rumors that he is a tyrant who starts wars without a care for the people. In reality, he is undertaking some suspicious activities himself. He is that Grohl’s son after all, so public opinion of him could probably turn for the worse in an instant.”
Mills smirked, and his eyes looked like a snake’s. The plan wasn’t bad: it would drive a wedge between two enemies, or it could serve to defame one. Even if it failed, it might just end with the messenger beheaded. On the off chance that he agreed, Amil would make him a viceroy, and clear one issue off his plate. Amil didn’t really think that Elgar was that foolish, but anything was possible with the son of his brother. After thinking for a while, Amil nodded.
“Act however you please. You might as well even promise to return the honour of my brother. He might happily go for that.”
“I am pleased you approve. Please leave everything to this prime minister Mills.”
Noel Corps was greeted by the people around Madress castle with wild dancing after thoroughly defeating the Baharan army. Wilm was hated by the people for pressing them for taxes and Amil was for repeatedly sending out expeditions. Noel was a perfect hero in the eyes of the people for dealing a blow to the military of the home province of the emperor. She maintained her expression all the way into the castle, having made her way through a crowd that thronged around her as if she was the emperor; a certain thing in her hand.
“You’re a total hero now, eh? I bet there ain’t a single man in Coimbra who doesn’t know your name.”
“It’s really a good thing. We’ll be done right away if we lose, too. What is important is that the people here stick together in tough times. That’s why they’ll all be my important companions until the end of the war.”
Elgar had a pained expression in the meeting, and Irvan seemed rather pale beside him.
“You’ve done well. Thanks to your work, the Unified Coimbra was able to set out on a new path to peace.”
Noel knelt respectfully as she honoured him, “Yes, sir, thank you, sir!”
Even with close friends, there was etiquette. That was one word she had learned in Gemb. She had to put in effort on her own to make sure that her friends wouldn’t be troubled.
“You captured Madress, Evear in the North, and even took the governor of Bahar, Bartheck’s life. There is no issue with calling you the hero of Coimbra. I personally wanted to reward your efforts with a promotion to major general, but…”
Elgar halted his words there, disappointing Noel who had thought she might have become a major general. If she gained great status, she would be able to move on her own without being hindered, and her companions would increase.
“Sir Siden of Gemb has told us that he strongly desires you wait before taking an important office. Normally, I wouldn’t allow him to interfere, but he has helped and loaned us much up until this point. Furthermore, he did not particularly speak badly of you, and for this reason, our discussion of the matter was ended there.”
“Yes sir! Understood, sir!”
“Well then, Noel, come here. I will call in a guest, and I want you at my side so I can hear your opinion.”
Noel held her small cloth-wrapped gift behind her as she went up to stand beside Elgar almost perfectly opposite to Irvan. Essentially, it was a proclamation that he valued the two nearly the same. Noel gave Irvan a little smile and wave, and he stiffly twitched his own face into a smile.
“Then, it won’t exactly lift our spirits, but call the ‘special envoy’. We have a guest from Ribeldam.”
The palace guard went out, and returned with a single man in tow. He was Griel, the man who had once payed a visit to Grohl. He knelt with a detestable smile.
“It has certainly been a while, Lord Elgar. Goodness, how handsome you’ve become. You have my heartfelt celebration of your victory this time.”
“I will accept those words for the moment, but you are from Ribeldam, a province serving the empire. Unfortunately, that makes us mutual enemies.”
“Hahaha, it is nothing so complicated, I hope… But still, you are really heroic just like your father.”
“Mr. Griel,” Elgar plainly bared his anger, but had to endure just to maintain a steady tone, “I don’t want to hear any needless formalities. I’ll say this now: I don’t trust you at all. My father marched to his own destruction on your words, after all. I have never forgotten that, not even for a second.”
Seeing this, Griel felt he had made the right choice to maintain his own pace. He was a veteran negotiator, and confidant in his experience. A young, inexperienced ruler was his opponent, so he had made sure to poke him where it hurt. Griel had won over Grohl with his own hands, and his son was of a similar caliber, making his mission easier than taking candy from a baby.
“Dear me, how harsh. However, the next order of business is a splendid gift that may help to counter my previous disrespect. I am confident you will be grateful.”
“What could it be?”
Elgar was doubtful, and Griel pulled out a letter from his breast pocket.
“This here is a letter from your honourable uncle, the emperor Amil.”
“Are you mocking me, you bastard!?!? Was he not my father’s enemy!?”
“Let us not rush things. Who, I wonder, might deliver this to Lord Elgar?”
Irvan stepped forth and accepted the letter, confirming the authenticity by its imperial seal. Elgar signaled with his eyes for Irvan to read it, so he stood, opened the letter, and read it out in a clear voice:
“I have heard of South Coimbra’s wretched state, and I know that these recent events have been elicited by the cries of the people. By nature, Coimbra should be ruled by a member of house Wardka. There has been an unfortunate conflict, but I believe it is now time to put it to rest. Thus declares Amil Wardka, fourth Emperor of Horsheido: Elgar Ludwig, representative of the people, unifier of Coimbra, will be appointed viceroy. Once more, in acknowledgement of this, Elgar has been permitted to return to the Wardka household. This will apply at once to Grohl as well, and his honour shall be restored.
“I will be… made viceroy, it says?”
“Yes. To be perfectly honest, this is an offer of peace… and I wonder how you find it? I don’t believe the conditions are lacking. Gemb is certainly formidable, but we must not forget its brutal defeat at the hands of the Empire of the Sun. Even now, Falid’s Black Sun Cavalry are headed there, and the results will likely be no different from before. You have no further reasons to carry on with this war beyond petty revenge… Am I mistaken?”
“I see. You may have a point.”
Elgar appeared interested.
Griel moved his entire body along with his performance, “Anger is but for a short while. What is important for now is to grant peace to the people, and bring wealth to the nation. Those who stand above others must throw away their selfish desires. You should bury your grudge and once more be united with the empire so that you can devote yourself to civil affairs. Doing so will not only grant you fame as a great ruler of Coimbra, but also return your father’s honour!”
“I understand what you are saying, Mr. Griel. The contents are truly splendid, or so I think. What are your thoughts, Irvan?”
“Yes, sir. We are those who will follow Lord Elgar down any road you take. Please proceed how you deem fit.”
Irvan had withheld his opinion as he knew it wasn’t his turn.
“I see… then, Noel, my friend, what do you think of Mr. Griel’s story?”
Having secretly donned her glasses, Noel put forth a smile. Elgar looked about to explode in comparison, but he somehow maintained his composure.
“I believe it to be a wonderful story. Truly it is a gain with no significant downside! If we proceed as Mr. Griel recommends, we can once more head down the path to destruction!”
“W-what are you saying!?”
Noel made a show of smartly adjusting her glasses at Griel’s raised voice. Next, she imitated Riglette.
“You want to know? Anybody can see that the empire is in decline; a setting sun. The emperor is a fool who set his hands about a childish ambition on another continent while neglecting his own foundations. A guarantee of status as a viceroy from such a person carries no weight, does it not?”
“Is this not an affront!?!?” Griel shouted, forgetting the basics of negotiation.
He had been significantly affected by the way the woman before him had just spoken. Her eyes looked down on him as if he were some inferior insect, and her words were difficult to swallow. Whatever the case, Griel had just crossed a line and he could not go back. Even as he regretted his rash words, he knew he couldn’t apologise.
“Everyone knows that Ribeldam doesn’t have any room to maneuver. Is that not why you came all the way here just to try and win a reward from your emperor? I mean, you’re also wracked with plague, are you not? Ahaha, it looks like you haven’t changed at all since before, dog of the empire!”
Elgar and the rest smiled as Noel cackled away. Griel trembled with rage. Incidentally, Riglette was also angry considering just who Noel was mimicking.
“Ghhaa! You traitors! If the Empire seriously faced you, you wouldn’t be able to resist, you bastards!”
“Oh my, but this traitor is the one you wanted to make viceroy, even bring him back into the prestigious house Wardka. Not only is this emperor mentally slow, but he also has bad eyes, eh? Lord Elgar, it may be best to just burn that letter.”
“Irvan, burn it and leave no trace. It’s viscerally disgusting.”
“By your will.”
Irvan held the letter over the flame of a candle until nothing remained; reduced to ash in an instant and blown away by the wind.
“I, I’ll make you regret that! At any rate, this will take you down the path to the same grizzly end as your father!”
“Lord Elgar, what do you think of letting Mr. Griel go empty-handed after coming all this way? Shall we give him a souvenir?”
“I don’t mind. What do you have in mind?”
“Please look this over.”
Noel took up the bundle she had left by her feet and tossed it to Griel. As Griel found himself catching it, the force of the throw caused the cloth to flutter away.
“It is the head I took from Major General Bartheck. Could you bring that to your glorious imperial majesty? He’ll surely be pleased.”
“Are we not splurging a little on this, Noel?”
Noel joined in on Elgar’s little charade, “You think so?”
Griel was so shocked he barely remained standing.
“Well, it should be fine. Guards, our special guest is leaving! Take him and that head out of the castle!!”
After Griel was forced out, Elgar spoke to everyone in the room, “We had no reason to accept that kind of message from the start. Even ignoring any sentiment, we have nothing to gain by joining the empire. We would only go right back to being squeezed.”
“It may lead to war, but it is still better than returning to hell. We must wipe away the ash of that which fell in the fire.”
Perius agreed, having only stayed quiet to watch the performance unfold. From the beginning, joining the empire under the current circumstances was the worst possible path to take out of all options: destroying Coimbra for the purpose of imperial subjugation of the other provinces.
Irvan expressed his misgivings with a sharp look in his eyes, “Lord Elgar, we should consider this messenger to have been sent expecting refusal in an attempt to spread rumors that you value revenge for your father over the peace of the plebeians. They have likely snuck in agents for that purpose.”
“So what do you think our best option is?”
“Ignoring it will be merely falling into their hands; therefore, we should be honest with the people. Let us place a large notice on each city’s bulletin board informing them of the matter. While it is true that the people are tired and don’t want war, we shouldn’t have any problems if we strongly push the idea that we must reject the empire’s peace with heartrending grief if we wish to avoid returning to the days of exploitation.”
The plebeians had taken up the sword to break out of that hell. If they went back to hell just to put off the next war, there would be no meaning to anything that they did, but there was a chance that the exhausted population would look only to the present and miss the future,so the situation had to be properly dealt with.
“All right, I’ll leave the management of this matter to Irvan.”
“By your will.”
After Elgar watched Irvan salute and step back, he opened his mouth once more, “We may have achieved victory for ourselves, but Gemb, Giv, and Karmbeeth, those provinces who also stand against the empire, are still fighting. While Coimbra is exhausted and that is important, if we merely watch, we may suffer another imperial invasion. In the first place, if we hadn’t received aid from Gemb and the rest, we wouldn’t have been able to spring into action. That is a debt we must not forget.”
No objection was raised. It was highly probable that the next target would be Coimbra if the tough fighting in Giv and Karmbeeth ended in their capture, and having to put up a defence so soon after gaining total control would push them to the limit.
“Now then, a meeting of princes has been decided upon to discuss a plan to oppose the empire. It was only decided just the other day, so I apologise for not informing you good sirs about it earlier, but we could not take any risks that might have caused the information to leak.”
Elgar’s announcement elicited a collective “oh?” from the audience. If the disparate, independently fighting provinces could instate a system of cooperation they would be able to produce enough of a military force to directly oppose the empire. The empire which was forced to spread out its military force by their continued presence on the Mundonovan continent; a situation that meant they could come to rival the empire in an instant.
“Lord Elgar, just when will that happen?”
“In ten days, in a Gembi city called Fresno. We will gather all those who waver, or seem like they might waver in their opposition of the empire. This may be an event that changes the course of history on this continent,” Elgar explained with a flitting tension to his expression.
He had been unable to stop his body from trembling when he had first heard the news from the Gembi messengers; he couldn’t understand how the door to standing alongside every prince could be opened to one as young as he. He did, however, believe that he could handle it. He had strong companions, and believing in them, he had to move on without being crushed by the pressure.
“Irvan, also Noel. I’ll have you two come with me. I would like to have your wisdom as a man from the continent, and I appoint Noel directly to the Gembi administration. By no means are you to forget, or sleep in.”
“May your will be done. This humble Irvan is greatly honoured to be allowed attendance and participation in a meeting that may yet leave its mark upon history.”
“Yes, sir, understood, sir.”
Noel’s hollow response greatly contrasted Irvan’s becoming overwhelmed with emotion.
“Noel, I want you to promise me with your own words that you won’t oversleep on the day of departure. You have a bad habit of forgetting things you aren’t interested in.”
“I… intend to put forth more effort than I have in the past.”
“Lord Elgar,” Cynthia stepped forward, “I will personally make sure to wake her up by force, so please entrust this task to your humble servant.”
Noel’s blanked out expression cracked a tiny smile, and Elgar’s sense of tension seemed to dissipate, leaving no trace of positive or negative mental strain.
“Seriously… well then, I’ll have Cynthia join as a guard as well. Gentlemen, what comes next will be critical. I expect even more work from you from here on out!”
Noel attempted to escape in a hurry after a salute, and had to contend with a strong blow from Cynthia. Elgar was unable to hold back his smile at the spectacle.
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