Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 4 - Chapter 2

Hint: To Play after pausing the player, use this button

Chapter 2: An Unexpected Messenger 

Lupis carefully examined the man who had suddenly appeared before her. His name was Akitake Sudou. He had black hair, black eyes and yellow skin. He looked to be in his forties, and while he wasn’t very tall, his body overall seemed rather solid. He did have a bit of a gut, but that could likely be attributed to his age catching up with him. His arms and neck, however, did have a thickness to them that made him look like a seasoned warrior. 

She’d seen people with some combination of these traits, but it was the first time she’d seen someone fulfill all of them. Yes, with the exception of one person. Ryoma Mikoshiba... 

“Please do not stare at me so intently. I might blush.” 

Sudou’s tone was far too crude for one speaking to a country’s princess, but his facial expression somehow made her forgive his words. That was the atmosphere he gave off. However, his easy-going words only made Lupis tense up in renewed caution. 

“I realize it is only natural for you to be wary, given I have appeared in the middle of the night without an appointment, but... Would you mind if I could at least take a seat? Standing for very long becomes hard at my age, you see.” 

And with that said, Sudou took a seat in the chair without waiting for Lupis’s approval. A truly impudent approach. Lupis had never met anyone so brazen before, if nothing else. 

“I ask again: Who are you?” Lupis said, aiming her sword at the man’s neck as he crossed his legs composedly on his chair. 

“I go by Akitake Sudou. You may think of me as a mediator of sorts, shall we say. Hired by a certain individual.” 

Sudou’s words were composed, but their content was quite dangerous. Unlike official merchants, secret emissaries like him put their lives at risk. Depending on what he let slip, he could very well be executed to keep his mouth shut. 

He doesn’t come across as a fool who doesn’t know his place... But he is awfully calm. 

Something about that composure tugged at Lupis’s attention. 

“What’s your objective here?” 

“To negotiate with you, Your Highness Lupis Rhoadserians. What else?” 

“How did you get in?” 

“I swam upstream against the Thebes to reach the back side of the camp. But my, your commander... Mikoshiba, I believe? He’s truly skilled. He didn’t stop at just making sure the moat is fully guarded, and extended his safety net to the Thebes too. Swimming takes quite a toll at my age, and I nearly got caught by the guards... Horrid, I tell you. Simply horrid.” Sudou gave a carefree laugh. 

Lupis couldn’t help but be shocked at his words, though. 

He... swam up the Thebes...? 

There were those who knew how to swim if the need presented itself, so that alone wasn’t so implausible. Even if there weren’t many chances to swim, some in this Earth did know how to swim if only by virtue of their livelihood, like fishermen and sailors. And true enough, the back of the base was patrolled, but not nearly as tightly as its front. 

But the Thebes was a massive river that fertilized the entirety of Rhoadseria, and it was always rich with water, never running dry. At its deepest, it was anywhere from four times to five times the height of a man, and not only was it wide enough that one couldn’t cross it without a boat, its currents were also rather fast. 

Unless one’s ship had sunk and their life was on the line, no one would ever seriously consider swimming across this river, even if they were sailors and fishermen. They would at most splash about in the shoals. And that was why the side facing the Thebes was less secured. 

The question became, then, why was Sudou that desperate to sneak into the camp? 

“What are your intentions? What negotiations...?” 

“Could you please put that dangerous thing away first? I’m a timid man, after all... Having a sword pointed at me by the woman known as the princess general is most unnerving,” Sudou said, and moved the sword’s tip away from his chest with a finger. 

It was hard to tell if he was being honest or just trying to compliment her, but Lupis couldn’t discern the intent of the person sitting before her. Still, it was true that greeting a man who came to negotiate with a sword aimed at them was cruel. Even if he did sneak into a princess’s tent in the dead of night. 

Lupis hesitantly sheathed her sword, though she did keep it within arm’s reach, so as to react to any surprise assault. 

“Very well... Now we can discuss matters in peace.” 

“You don’t have to comment on everything.” Lupis fixed her gaze on Sudou. “State your business already.” 

Sudou remained flippant, however. 

“Well, as I’m sure you might’ve imagined, I’ve been sent by one Duke Gelhart... Though the truth is a touch more nuanced than that, but for now that explanation will do.” 

Lupis ignored his insolent tone. If she were to cling to every careless remark he made, the conversation wouldn’t go anywhere. Sudou, in the meanwhile, guessed at her thoughts from his gaze, and hardened his expression as he continued. 

“Which brings me to my business... I will be direct. Duke Gelhart wishes to pledge allegiance to you, Your Highness.” 

“Pledge allegiance?” Lupis scoffed. “Are you sure you don’t mean surrender?” 

As inexperienced as she was, she was still royalty, and received considerable education. She knew that if Duke Gelhart ordered anything at this point, it would be either his surrender or to have Lupis assassinated. 

Of course, since he was surrendering before the final showdown, it was questionable how severely she could punish him, but whichever way it went, Duke Gelhart’s power and authority would be severely diminished. There would be just about no chance of him regaining power. 

But if he surrendered, she couldn’t have him executed to begin with. His territory would also be a concern, because even if she could diminish it, she wouldn’t be able to take all of his lands away, and the same held true for his fortune. 

There was a difference between surrendering after the war had concluded and surrendering in the middle of battle. The winner couldn’t press the surrendering party for conditions as harshly. 

But while it would be one thing if their forces were equally matched, there was no reason for Duke Gelhart to decide to swear allegiance to Princess Lupis at this point in the war. 

The nobles’ faction held numerical superiority, but Princess Lupis would win due to having several times the number of knights, who were trained and proficient in thaumaturgy. Ryoma Mikoshiba took away the nobles’ faction’s locational advantage. And most of all, the nobles’ faction was ultimately nothing more than a disorderly mob. They’d do anything to maintain their families’ standing. 

Had Duke Gelhart offered his allegiance before Princess Lupis’s forces crossed the river, she may have begrudgingly agreed. Ferrying an army across the river was much easier said than done. 

That was why Mikoshiba’s achievements were so significant. 

Lupis understood this, and so she deemed Sudou’s words to be unacceptable. All that aside, Duke Gelhart was the one who used that illegitimate child he brought out of nowhere, Radine, and the contents of the will to form a just cause for battle. He was essentially a traitor to the crown. 

For all Lupis was concerned, Duke Gelhart was the source and ringleader of this political strife. Sparing his life wasn’t an option for her. 

At least it wasn’t until she heard the words Sudou said next. 

“Have you heard of a knight by the name of Mikhail Vanash?” 

The moment he said those words, Lupis went pale. She didn’t expect to hear the name of a man whose death she’d mourned until now, and her surprise was understandable. 

“Huh...? What do you mean...? It can’t be!” 

A messenger who came for negotiations mentioned the name of a man who should be dead. That caused a single possibility to sprout in Lupis’s heart. 

“It can’t be... Mikhail is...” 

But then something tore apart the tent’s fabric and forced its way in, as if to cut into her words. 


Lupis was then struck speechless by the movements Sudou performed right before her eyes. His heavy, middle-aged body had at some point disappeared from the chair, and was standing on both feet. Her eyes couldn’t perceive the moment he got up. Something once again slashed through the air, but stabbed into the chair Sudou was sitting on just a moment ago. 

“That’s dangerous. Attacking without any warning is dreadful, even if I am an intruder,” Sudou said, fixedly gazing at the chakram that had stabbed into the chair. “But oh, this is unusual. A chakram... If anyone were to use this weapon it would be Ryoma Mikoshiba himself, yes?” 

Sudou’s voice echoed through the tent, but no response came. In place of an answer, another chakram zoomed through the air, this time from the tent’s entrance, roaring as it made way to Sudou’s face. 

“Good grief, ignoring me, are you...?” Sudou blocked the incoming chakram by picking up the chair. 

Even as more than half the blade pierced through the wood, Sudou’s tone remained as light as before. Even as more and more chakrams were being thrown at him. 

“Could you please just show yourself already? It feels like I’m talking to myself, and that makes me feel quite foolish.” 

More chakrams came flying even as he said that. Of course, Sudou himself didn’t know if he really was speaking to Ryoma, but he simply tried to provoke the other party. His tone remained flippant, but his concentration was fixed entirely on the tent’s entrance... Without knowing that this was exactly what Ryoma wanted him to do. 

“Your Highness! Over here, hurry!” 

All of a sudden the tent’s fabric was torn apart, and Meltina rushed in from behind Lupis. Even a sturdy tent made to withstand rain and wind was made of cloth, after all, and could be easily torn apart by a sword. 


“Come, Your Highness, we must hurry!” 

Meltina lead Lupis out of the tent through the tear, where the perimeter was completely surrounded by knights. While Princess Lupis was still reeling, unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting situation, Meltina raised her voice. 

“Sir Mikoshiba, I’ve secured Her Highness!” 

As if in response to her words, the knights all tilted the torches they were holding forward. 

“All right. Do it!” 

At Ryoma’s command, several dozen torches were thrown at the tent, scattering embers and sparks as they soared through the air. 

“Wait, no, you can’t kill him...!” Lupis shouted as hard as she could. “Meltina, please! Hurry, get water! Extinguish those flames!” 

Not yet, at least! From what that Sudou person said, Mikhail might still be... 

That emotion spurred Princess Lupis forward. She knew how low of a chance it was, but people had a way of clinging to the hope before their eyes. But her words came far too late, and the flurry of torches had already ignited the tent. In addition, the knights already had their swords drawn, expecting Sudou to burst out of the tent. Everyone present was bent on delivering the intruder who snuck into the princess’s tent to his death. 

“What are you saying, Your Highness? Isn’t he an assassin?” Meltina asked. 

She was struggling to get a handle on the situation, too. She was awakened from her bed, told that Princess Lupis was in danger and rushed over after putting on her armor. She then only abided by Ryoma’s instructions. 

Meltina didn’t know what was going on, and couldn’t fathom what Princess Lupis was saying. She had no idea about the hint Sudou had dropped regarding Mikhail’s survival. 

“Forget all that, just save him, save Sudou!” Lupis ordered her men to save Sudou from death’s maw. 

Overwhelmed by Princess Lupis’s angry shouting, Meltina shifted her gaze to the burning tent. 

“But... At this point it’s...” 

The fire had completely overtaken the cloth that made up the tent, which had by now reduced to a huge campfire. Going into that tent would be throwing oneself into one of two fates: suffocating from lack of oxygen or catching fire and burning to death. Whichever of the two it was, it was doubtful Sudou would survive. 

But it was then that the sound of the knights’ shocked voices reached Meltina’s ears. 

“Oh! He just...!” 

“Prepare the spears! Forward! Forward!” 

“Don’t let him get away!” 

The knights from the other side of the tent called out. 



Meltina still didn’t understand the situation, but she did know Princess Lupis wished for this assassin’s life to be saved. And so Meltina went about fulfilling her mistress’s wishes, albeit while feeling rather dubious about it. 

“My word... That was an awful thing to do... I might be an enemy, but you could spare a bit more mercy. Burning a person alive... Unacceptable. Simply unacceptable. Goes against human decency, I’d say.” 

Sudou appeared before Ryoma. His clothes were charred here and there, but he had no visible wounds. 

“Are you really human...?” 

Even though he was composed, Ryoma couldn’t restrain his surprise at the sight of Sudou walking calmly out of the burning tent’s entrance. 

“Ah, finally remembered how to speak, have you? My, how very joyous.” 

But Ryoma simply ignored his words, drawing his katana. 

“Hmm, gone quiet again? Even curtness should have its limits...” 

But Ryoma ignored Sudou’s wisecracks, hiding the katana with his body by holding it in a flank stance, closing the gap between them in a moment. And then, with his gaze fixed on Sudou’s abdomen, he swept his sword forward. 

At that moment, the dull sound of clashing metal rang out, as a spray of sparks bloomed between the two. 

“Could we settle this another day, considering how lightly armed I am? This truly is becoming too much to bear, even for me.” 

At some point, a dagger appeared in Sudou’s hands, and he spoke while using it to parry Ryoma’s attack. It was hard to tell if he was speaking truthfully or not — whether he truly had the leisure to stay composed or not. None of the surrounding knights could tell what Sudou was thinking — not even Ryoma could know. But Ryoma only cared about one thing right now, and it wasn’t this man’s intentions. 

A dead man’s intentions didn’t matter in the slightest, after all. 

Ryoma’s right leg stomped at the ground hard. Sudou evaded, avoiding the front of his leg being stepped on, and that made Ryoma lose focus for a split second, which Sudou took as a chance to widen the gap between them. 

“Hmph... Dreadful. You’re not listening to a word I’m saying... I cannot afford to fight you here...” 

But while Sudou may not have had any will to fight, Ryoma was the exact opposite. He silently held the katana over his head, straining his muscles to deliver a slash. His eyes shined with dark bloodlust, which menaced Sudou. 

“An overhead position, the stance of fire... This is a problem...” Sudou muttered in an almost resigned fashion. 

I’ve tried to shake him as much as I could, but nothing’s working. I thought it might make his swordplay falter, but it hasn’t done a thing. He’s even calmly reading my actions... He’s probably realized that all I have is this dagger for self-defense... 

He had left behind his usual sword and the many hidden weapons he’d kept hidden in his clothes, as they would have weighed him down in his swim through the Thebes. His sole weapon was this dagger, and having realized this, Ryoma chose the stance of fire. The most aggressive stance, that was also the least suited for defense — a stance that was in many ways reckless. But with only a dagger in hand, Sudou wouldn’t be able to block the incoming slash. 

It was obvious that even if he managed to block it, he’d be overpowered. The raised katana would bear down on him with all of Ryoma’s strength and his weight, which was double that of the common man. The most he could do was predict its range and try to avoid the slash altogether. 

What a bother... I can’t afford to die here... But at the same time, I can’t kill him without properly appraising him... 

Sudou turned his consciousness to his own chakras, but it was then that the goddess of fate smiled upon him. 

“Sir Mikoshiba, stop! That’s enough!” Meltina pushed between them, finally appearing on the scene. 

She must have run over, because her shapely chest was rising and falling with fatigued breathing. 

“What are you doing...?” Ryoma asked, maintaining his stance. “Why are you stopping me?” 

His gaze was still unrelentingly fixed on Sudou. 

His voice was as sharp as a blade, and unlike his usual tone. 

“I don’t know myself! But Her Highness ordered it!” 

“Princess Lupis...? Is that true?” 

“Yes, there’s no mistaking it. She gave me a direct order to spare him.” 

At her words, Ryoma exhaled grandly and lowered his sword. But he’d only switched his stance to a low position, so he could cut Sudou down in the event he did anything suspicious. He didn’t allow carelessness to sneak into his heart. 

“Fine. I won’t cut him down for now, but we need to understand the situation. I’m sorry, but could you bring Her Highness over?” 

“I’m here!” Princess Lupis hurried over, running between the knights. 

Ryoma then asked her. His attitude may have been too coarse considering he was speaking to royalty, but no one faulted Ryoma for it in this situation. Even if it was Princess Lupis’s order, no one saw a reason to keep an intruder that snuck into the camp under the veil of night alive. 

“I’ve heard what Lady Meltina said... Could you explain what she meant?” 

“Very well.” Princess Lupis nodded. “But first, I must ask this man something.” 

She then turned her gaze to Sudou. 

“You called yourself Sudou, yes? I would like to speak with you. Could you come with me?” 

“Yes, yes. Of course.” Sudou readily accepted Princess Lupis’s proposal. “I would love for things to calm down and for us to continue our conversation from earlier.” 

“Then Mikoshiba, please have a new tent prepared. Meltina, go and call Helena and the others.” 

“Very well... But do be careful...” 

While Ryoma was quite unconvinced, he left along with Meltina to do as Princess Lupis ordered. 

“Your Highness... Why are you gathering people?” Sudou asked suspiciously upon hearing Princess Lupis’s words. “I would much prefer to speak with you privately.” 

He’d judged from her behavior that Princess Lupis was interested in negotiations, and the fact he hadn’t been killed meant that she was interested in hearing of Mikhail’s condition. But she still had people gathered. 


This was very much Princess Lupis letting her private emotions take hold, and wasn’t something she would want people to see. 

“When it comes to deciding matters of the state, even a ruler can’t make choices arbitrarily. Or will you tell me you won’t talk unless it’s just the two of us?” 

Sudou realized he’d made light of the princess. 

Hmm... It seems she isn’t as much of a fool as I’ve thought. But this only requires me to reword things a bit... She’s still just an inexperienced princess... The problem is that man... I knew he’d be impressive, since he killed Gaius Valkland, but... He really is troublesome. I can see how he managed to give Saitou the slip. 

Sudou struggled to keep the black bloodlust rising in his heart contained. It wasn’t time to become involved with Ryoma Mikoshiba yet. Sudou had a mission to accomplish. 

Even if I do eventually have him killed, he can’t be treated the same as any other target... Getting involved with him needlessly would be dangerous... But so be it. For now, I must focus on the task at hand. 

Sudou swiftly calculated his choices and bowed his head to Princess Lupis in assent.

In a newly prepared tent stood sixteen people. Princess Lupis, Meltina, Helena and Ryoma were naturally there, but so were Ryoma’s personal confidants — Laura, Sara, Lione and Boltz — as well as Count Bergstone and others of the neutral faction’s nobles. In other words, everyone who made up the core of the Princess’s faction. 

Their gazes were all directed to the mysterious man who introduced himself as Sudou, who had finally parted his lips and spoke decisively. 

“So, as I’ve already explained, Duke Gelhart wishes to pledge allegiance to Her Highness... And as proof of that, he promises to return Mikhail Vanash, who is currently under his protection in Heraklion. To that end, he sent me as a mediator.” 

Sudou concluded his words, and a deep silence fell over the tent. Or rather, the offer was so sudden everyone couldn’t quite keep up with how things were developing. The ringleader of the rebellion came to pledge allegiance to them on the eve of the final battle. Nothing could be more unexpected. 

“Laura... This is bad, isn’t it...?” Sara whispered into Laura’s ear. 

“It is... This may have an effect on Master Ryoma’s plans...” Laura answered, fixing her gaze on Ryoma, who watched Sudou speak. 

“It almost certainly will...” 

“Yes... Very much so...” 

The two’s whispering was drowned out by the tumult that filled the tent. Lione spoke to Boltz, Meltina whispered to Princess Lupis, and the nobles consulted each other with low voices. The only two who were perfectly silent were Ryoma and Helena. 

“What will Master Ryoma do...?” Sara asked, but Laura had no answer. 

In the end, the sisters could only anxiously watch over Ryoma. One could go so far as to say that it didn’t matter to the sisters which conclusion was reached at the end of this meeting. They only needed to act in Ryoma Mikoshiba’s favor. 

Ryoma closed his eyes and calmly adjusted his posture. Doing so helped him restrain the emotions surging up in his heart, and that was his only way of breaking through the current situation. Once Sudou concluded his explanation, Ryoma snuck a single glance at Princess Lupis, who had fallen silent. 

So she really won’t budge... This is giving me a headache... 

Honestly speaking, while Ryoma trusted Princess Lupis as a person, he had little to no trust in her skills. She’d been educated as a noble and was by no means stupid, and had a fair amount of knowledge when it came to military affairs, which meant that as rulers go, she was qualified. 

But Ryoma had vaguely noticed that Lupis Rhoadserians lacked one trait that was critical for a ruler, and yet he didn’t expect her to come off as this foolish. 

What Sudou said... That they only started the rebellion out of respect for the late king’s will, and didn’t mean to turn against the royal family? Bullshit... They did way too much for that to be their motive... And he said he wants to turn to our side because he can’t forgive Hodram Albrecht for turning against the royal family and plotting rebellion? He must think we’re stupid. 

Those were Ryoma’s feelings upon hearing Sudou’s story. Duke Gelhart hoped to get away by saying he only acted on the late king’s will, and to curry favor and show his loyalty by saying he was outraged by General Albrecht turning coat. He would pin the stigma of being a rebel entirely on General Albrecht and get away scot-free. 

Usually, one wouldn’t gather everyone to hear this proposal out, but no one raised their voice in anger at this foolish prospect. 

Everyone’s thinking the same thing... 

As rude as it may be to think this of a ruler, Ryoma didn’t trust her political skills to begin with, and so believed she shouldn’t be allowed to arbitrarily make a decision regarding Sudou’s proposal. Lupis herself knew she wasn’t inadequate in this situation, but Ryoma could only praise this judgment if, after hearing Sudou’s explanation, she’d reject it of her own will. 

In the end, Princess Lupis doesn’t want Mikhail Vanash to die... 

Ryoma’s heart grew cold. True, Mikhail was a passionately loyal and skilled knight, and was one of Princess Lupis’s most trusted retainers alongside Meltina. It was only human nature for Princess Lupis to not want to abandon him, and Ryoma didn’t mean to fault her for that in and of itself. But a ruler couldn’t let such personal emotions take over. She had to restrain them. 

This wasn’t a question of how trusted or loyal Mikhail was. No retainers, no matter how dear to one’s heart or skilled they were, were worth relinquishing the chance to claim Duke Gelhart’s head. 

Duke Gelhart was a traitor who raised a rebellion against Princess Lupis. No single life, as close and loyal as it may be, was worth saving if it meant pardoning him... 

Is he really more important than winning the war, more important than keeping Rhoadseria unified as a country...? 

True, Princess Lupis still hadn’t stated her feelings on the matter, so for the time being, Ryoma was only assuming she wanted to have Mikhail saved. Still, Ryoma was convinced this was the case. 

No, likely everyone present thought the same. She wouldn’t have kept Sudou alive after he snuck into a royal’s tent without permission if she didn’t think so. No punishment would seem lenient, but she insisted Sudou be spared and brought here, so she could hear what he had to say. This alone put her feelings on full display. 

She doesn’t want Mikhail to die, so she has to accept Duke Gelhart’s offer. But Princess Lupis knows she has no legitimacy to make that decision, and that’s why she gathered everyone here. So it’s not just her name being dragged through the mud. 

If Princess Lupis was to accept this offer of her own judgment, others would surely object to her decision. And that was why she gathered everyone here — to obfuscate who was responsible for making that choice. 

“I would like to hear your opinions, then.” 

Ryoma had to hold back a clicking of the tongue at hearing those words leave Princess Lupis’s lips. But as angry as it made him, he couldn’t lash out here. 

“Would anyone like to share their thoughts?” 

Princess Lupis’s words were met with silence. As everyone held their tongue, Princess Lupis’s gaze wandered across the round table. Ryoma himself didn’t think Mikhail’s life was worth pardoning Duke Gelhart, and everyone present, Princess Lupis included, thought the same. The mere comparison felt foolish. 

And so, it was clear what needed to be said, but since Princess Lupis wished to spare Mikhail, no one could bring themselves to say it. What Princess Lupis wanted was to have her will approved under the guise of an opinion. 

If Ryoma were to suggest they should discard Mikhail’s life, Princess Lupis would no doubt resent him for it after this meeting. And that grudge would grow with the passage of time, eventually leading her to ignore Ryoma’s opinion for emotional reasons. And on top of that, other knights like Mikhail would riot at the decision. 

“You’re leaving Mikhail to die?!” 

“What’s the point if you won’t save your own men?!” 

“How dare you say that, you outsider!” 

Ryoma would be absolutely showered with those insults. At times, reason came at the cost of emotion. That was for certain. But if the ruler was to drown in their own emotions, it would cause a distortion to form somewhere else. A distortion that would decisively hurt someone else. 

At that moment, Ryoma felt Helena turn a piercing gaze to him. 

“I can’t...” Ryoma shook his head as he whispered to Helena. 

He’d realized from her gaze what she was trying to say. 

“Then let me...” she whispered back, but he shook his head again. 

“Don’t. If Princess Lupis grows suspicious of you here, it would become difficult to reorganize everything later...” 

Even Helena would be seen as the villain if she were to tell her to give up on Mikhail. She wasn’t well-trusted by Princess Lupis the way Meltina and Mikhail were. Helena was skilled enough to be known as Rhoadseria’s White Goddess of War, so there would be less opposition to her making the suggestion compared to a neophyte like Ryoma. 

But Ryoma didn’t see Princess Lupis choosing to discard Mikhail’s life over Helena’s advice. 

“Then what do we do? The way things are going is...” Helena seemingly felt the situation was as dangerous as Ryoma thought it to be. 

Accepting Duke Gelhart’s excuses and allowing him to swear allegiance would mean indirectly acknowledging Princess Radine. It would make it so he only acted in accordance to the late king’s last will. 

Accepting the turncoat known as Duke Gelhart into the kingdom of Rhoadseria would also automatically elevate Princess Radine to the position of second in line for the throne. Princess Lupis would be creating her greatest political opponent with her own actions, making her already shaky position all the more unstable. 

If only one could fix this, it would be Meltina, but... 

Ryoma’s eyes moved to Meltina, who was seated beside the princess. 

No good... She’s just happy Mikhail is alive... I understand being happy your colleague and friend is alive, but... She doesn’t see how bad things are going. It’s pointless to expect anything out of her... Which means... 

Giving up on Meltina, who was simply smiling with relief and joy, Ryoma wracked his brains over a way to break this deadlock. 

Killing Duke Gelhart is a no-go... But just getting rid of General Albrecht would be enough... The problem is what comes later... Princess Lupis won’t be able to rein Duke Gelhart in... Even if she temporarily strips him of his power, he’d still end up gathering political power sooner or later... 

A cold thought then surfaced in Ryoma’s mind. Killing Duke Gelhart was a choice he had to make only because he considered the future of the kingdom of Rhoadseria as a country. It was Princess Lupis’s problem. Why should an outsider to this country like Ryoma risk his position to kill Duke Gelhart? 

If she wants to save Mikhail that badly... I suppose we should just let her... 

At that moment, Ryoma gave up on Princess Lupis. 

Or to be exact, he gave up on her future. From that moment on, Lupis Rhoadserians’s fate would rely on her own abilities. 

Rest easy, Your Highness. I won’t betray you. But the way things are going, you will absolutely, positively die. I don’t know how many years down the road it’ll come, but I can see it clearly... So I’ll leave Helena and the others with my warning. But that’s the last time I’ll help you. The people of Rhoadseria will have to handle the rest. I’d keep a very, very close eye on Gelhart if I were you. 

Whispering so in his heart, Ryoma raised his hand to receive permission to speak. 

“Then may I, if you don’t mind?” 

When those words echoed through the tent, Lupis was momentarily overtaken with fear. She knew her decision was wrong. But her emotionality, her kindness prohibited her from electing to cast Mikhail’s life aside. 

“Very well. You may speak.” 

“Thank you.” Ryoma rose to his feet at Princess Lupis’s approval. “I am in favor of accepting Mr. Sudou’s offer and taking Duke Gelhart on his offer of allegiance!” 

Ryoma’s words shook the tent. 

“What?! Are you serious, Sir Mikoshiba?!” 

“Yes, Count Bergstone. Quite serious.” 

“Unbelievable. I never imagined such words might leave your lips...” 

Count Bergstone had spent all his days in the palace, grappling with the matter of this political unrest. As a noble, he had in-depth knowledge on matters of domestic importance and diplomacy. And that experience made it all too clear to him just how dangerous taking that offer would be for Princess Lupis. 

“Do you... have some kind of plan...?” 

Count Bergstone was so utterly taken aback by Ryoma’s words that he asked the question even though the enemy’s messenger, Sudou, was present. 

“Not at all. But we can’t afford to abandon a loyal knight like Sir Mikhail, and Duke Gelhart’s words do have some truth. It’s best to avoid war whenever possible. Heraklion is surrounded by farmlands, so damaging those lands will influence tax collection. Wouldn’t having Duke Gelhart swear his allegiance to Princess Lupis save us that trouble?” 

Nothing Ryoma said was a lie. Hurting the duke’s lands would indeed hurt tax collection, and from a short-term perspective, having him swear allegiance to their side wasn’t a bad option. 

But the count was left unconvinced. They’d accounted for the effect marching on Heraklion would have on the taxes, so Ryoma had already made allowances for that matter. 

“But Your Highness! Before we accept the duke’s proposal, I suggest we add a few conditions of our own.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Even if he didn’t act out of malice, our armies have already crossed swords once. Sir Mikhail’s release won’t be enough to balance things out. What say you that we revoke him of his position of duke and demand indemnities?” 

Princess Lupis pondered over Ryoma’s words. She wasn’t foolish enough to think Sudou’s proposal was in any way worth it, either. She wouldn’t have even considered it if Mikhail’s return wasn’t mentioned, and so Ryoma’s opinion was quite clear to her. 

But if we push the negotiations so far they end up falling apart... Mikhail might not be saved... 

She’d already once assumed him dead, but if he was still alive, she wanted to save him at all costs. Lupis’s heart wavered between reason and emotion. But without regard for her conflict, Sudou made his next play. 

“Very well. Duke Gelhart has entrusted me with full authority in case such demands rise... So, I vote for relinquishing his title as a duke and fifty thousand gold coins in indemnities.” 

His words once again filled the tent with tumult. 

“““Fifty thousand?!””” 

The amount Sudou offered more than simply covered the war expenses. The nobles heaved a sigh of relief. If nothing else, they would be able to repay their subordinates for putting their lives at risk and guarantee their households’ casual income. 

Sudou smirked thinly, feeling the atmosphere in the tent mellow down. 

Hmph, nobles always prioritize their house. It’s a good thing I chose a large number that would leave a lasting impact instead of starting small and trying to bargain... 

Fifty thousand gold coins was a very large sum of money, even for an affluent noble house like Duke Gelhart’s. He only offered this amount to gain control of the situation. But when Ryoma spoke next, Sudou’s face contorted bitterly. 

“No, I would like to also ask that in addition to those requests, he is not to have any position in the palace for a period of five years.” 

Hmph... So he predicted I would offer those. That was a risk I was prepared to take before I came here... But forbidding him from having a posting is unexpected. 

But that was one condition Ryoma wouldn’t back down from. If that wasn’t upheld, Princess Lupis and her inferior political prowess would just fall victim to Duke Gelhart. And so, he said five years. In five years, Princess Lupis and the nobles under her would grow used to running the country and perhaps be able to shrug off Duke Gelhart’s attempts to gain power. 

Of course, whether that came to pass depended on Lupis and her retainers, and even Ryoma couldn’t take responsibility to see it happen. This was his way of securing the country’s potential future while abiding by Lupis’s wish to save Mikhail. 

“And there’s something I’d like the duke’s assistance with,” Ryoma said meaningfully, to which Sudou narrowed his eyes. 

Hmph... He probably means those spies masked as merchants he employed earlier... He wants Duke Gelhart to spread those rumors through the nobles’ faction, too... True, a rumor coming from multiple sources seems more credible... 

Sudou was already beginning to see what Ryoma had planned. Having lived in a different world from this one that was blessed with technology and science, he knew well enough how important information and intelligence could be. 

Whatever the case, I have to do what I can to preserve Duke Gelhart’s position. 

Duke Gelhart was a very useful tool for both the Empire of O’ltormea and the organization. They could discard and replace him if needed, but Sudou frankly wanted to keep using him for as long as possible. Seeking out a new tool would require time and effort, after all. 

“Yes, very well... I shall accept those terms in Duke Gelhart’s stead. Will this be all, Your Highness?” 

Sudou turned the conversation to Princess Lupis, who was standing there dumbfounded, and had no choice but to nod. 

“Yes... That’s fine...” 

Hearing those words, Sudou nodded in satisfaction. These negotiations were by no means easy for him, either. 

“Good. Then I will return to Heraklion to report to Duke Gelhart and see to Sir Mikhail’s release. After that, we will speak to Mr. Mikoshiba regarding his request.” And with that said, Sudou bowed his head to the princess and left the tent.

With Sudou gone, the meeting concluded. The participants returned to their allotted tents, leaving only Ryoma, Lione, Boltz and the Malfist sisters in the tent where the talks took place. 

“Are ya really alright with that?” Lione asked. 

“I did what I could.” Ryoma shrugged. “I tried to do as much as possible given the situation... Asking for any more than that without giving up on Mikhail would be asking for the moon.” 

Ryoma was confident he achieved the best result possible given the circumstances. He almost wanted to compliment himself for reducing the damage this much under Princess Lupis’s emotional drunkenness. 

“Would five years be enough?” Sara asked. 

“Who knows?” Ryoma shrugged again. “Honestly, I can’t be bothered to care about them for that long.” 

Ryoma’s actions in that conference were effectively a granting of borrowed time. If this entire matter could be summarized in medicinal terms, then Duke Gelhart and General Albrecht were fatal diseases eating away at the Kingdom of Rhoadseria. 

But Princess Lupis, the so-called patient in need of surgery, didn’t want to have Duke Gelhart removed, or rather, rejected the cost of it being removed. The cost could be likened to the doctor’s fee or the time spent in the hospital. To gain something, one had to give up on something else, and that was true regardless of whether it was this world or Ryoma’s. 

So since the patient, Lupis, rejected the operation, Ryoma had no choice but to take the second best course of action while being well aware of the risks. He’d contained the outbreak of the disease called Duke Gelhart for five years, hoping that during that time the patient would gain the vitality needed to fight this disease off. 

He had no other choice. All he could do was hope that Princess Lupis would use the five years he’d bought her wisely. That was something the people of Rhoadseria would have to worry about, though. It wasn’t something Ryoma, who had only become involved with this country by coincidence, should be concerned about. 

“I suppose that means the only enemy we have left to defeat is General Albrecht and his two thousand knights... Now that Duke Gelhart has turned to self-defense, the other nobles will be scrambling to preserve their positions.” 

Lione and the others nodded at Ryoma’s smirk. The nobles were a considerable presence because of the financial and military force of their territories, but they had one major flaw. The nobles were a gathering of individual rulers, and so once the situation turned against them, they would rush to defend their territory no matter how bad it made them look, even if they had to push their so-called allies, the other nobles, out of the way to do it. 

And Ryoma had already planted the story that would make them rush to defend themselves. 

“So General Albrecht will be the one stuck with the Old Maid in hand, eh...?” 

“Even fellow nobles would sacrifice each other if they have to, so they’d never prioritize General Albrecht, who was originally their enemy. But forget that, the general will have his hands full protecting himself and won’t even care about what goes on around him. It’d be essentially impossible for him to stay in Rhoadseria’s territory now. His only option would be to flee to another country. Well, we can assume we already have Albrecht checked. Question is, how many nobles will we be able to cull...?” 

With General Albrecht dead, the current war will come to a close. But in terms of what will happen to the kingdom going forward, it would only mark the start of the postwar measures. 

“I’d like to have at least a third of them gone, but can that princess make such a decisive choice...? Who knows.” 

“All according to yer script, boy... Chills me to the bone,” Lione said jokingly, shrugging her shoulders. 

“I had to make a lot of changes to my plan halfway through, though,” Ryoma replied with a bitter smile. 

Helena’s participation, Mikhail’s disobedience, General Albrecht’s betrayal and Duke Gelhart’s allegiance. Ryoma couldn’t very well say everything happened exactly as he planned it. But it would all end soon. 

“Either tomorrow or the day after that...” 

“We’ll be attacking Heraklion,” Laura said. 

“Yeah. And that’s the final battle!” Ryoma nodded. 

And so the Kingdom of Rhoadseria’s final battle approached its climax, in a way unlike what Ryoma had initially conceived. 

Share This :


No Comments Yet

Post a new comment

Register or Login