Translator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
State of Affairs
When Emperor Kaglai received word that Einbeast was raising an army, he quickly convened all senior personnel. Until a while ago, the Empire was under attack by Ponsonia’s army. Those who loathed the Kingdom believed that Einbeast was superior, but military personnel who fought against Lawrence directly had a different opinion.
「I don’t see that Master Swordsman losing…」one said.
「I want your opinion on this matter. Should we take part in this war or no?」Kaglai asked, snugly sitting in his chair. Being a Man Gnome, he was short, but none present looked down on him.
Most of the people objected to participating in the war.
「Your Majesty. Even if Ponsonia won, their power would be severely reduced. There would be massive outflow of funds, food, and even talented people. It’ll be our chance to absorb them all.」
「What if Einbeast won?」
「Then all the more so. Einbeast wouldn’t lend a hand to Prince Austrin for free. There has to be an ulterior motive. Perhaps they’ll kill the Prince the moment he leads them into the capital, and take over Ponsonia. If Austrin resisted, there would be a battle between Austrin’s troops and Einbeast’s army. In that case, it’s all the same. We can take advantage of the outcome.」
It wasn’t only the Prime Minister who thought Kaglai’s vague answer strange.
「With all due respect, Your Majesty. It’s easy. We’ll profit while others fight.」
「Indeed. Just let them duke it out, while we sit back and watch.」
「This is Ponsonia’s punishment from the heavens. Their King died and now a neighboring country is going to attack them.」
「Retribution for daring to invade our Empire. They had it coming.」
While the rest of the people were cheerful, Kaglai was deep in thought.
「Everyone, listen.」the Emperor finally said. 「This war is a big opportunity for our Empire.」
Everyone nodded. He finally understood our point. I don’t even know why he had to mull it over. That’s what they thought.
「But the opportunity I’m referring to is different from yours.」
「…What do you mean?」the Prime Minister asked, sensing something wrong.
「I hear Princess Kudyastoria is a wise lady. She has the support of the valiant Margrave Grugschilt and the mighty warrior Lawrence, too. Even up against the combined forces of Prince Austrin’s men and Einbeast’s army, I do not think they will lose that easily.」
「Do you think the Princess will win?」
「Yes. It is only but a hunch. But I intend to make it happen.」
「Your Majesty, please give it to us straight so we understand.」
The Prime Minister was getting impatient. Alarm bells rang incessantly in his head.
「This is an opportunity for us to join hands with Ponsonia. With the Empire’s support, Ponsonia will not lose. We will forget our long-held grudges. This is the perfect chance for us to forge a friendship that will last thousands of years.」
Men screamed, some turned pale, a few even fainted. The people of the Empire despised Ponsonia that much.
Isn’t that right, Unken?
While the conference room was in a state of chaos, Emperor Kaglai saw something else.
The heavens didn’t will for the King to die or Einbeast to attack. This is all the work of man. So I will open up a bright future for those who put their lives on the line for the Empire.
Kaglai’s determination was firm, and he quickly shut down anyone who objected to his decision. He then sent a messenger to Princess Kudyastoria.
His decision would bring a drastic shift in the Empire’s history. But hardly anyone knew that it was a lone assassin who sparked the change.
Word of the war also reached Forestia’s capital, Forestzard. Queen Marquedo was studying the information together with the Prime Minister Zofira.
「Ahh. A war in this shitty winter season?」
「Language, please. If you keep saying that, it might slip out when you talk in public.」
「I can’t help it, okay? Did you see my schedule? I’m swamped with work!」
Forestia’s winter was also called the season of politics. The first snow already came in Forestzard. Marquedo’s schedule was packed from morning to evening—conferences, visits, appeals, dinner meetings, tea parties, and balls.
「But you were delighted about the exciting events we have this year.」
「Well, yeah. I suppose. Thanks to Zubura coming down hard during the Foundation Anniversary, things will start to change.」
The student alliance aside, the mass wedding was sending huge ripples throughout the country. For Silvester—Zubura’s next representative and proponent of the plan—the student alliance might be more important since he would be a part of it, but ultimately, it was only a campus-wide organization. News of the mass wedding, an event that affected the general public, spread quickly like wildfire.
That only meant that there were many couples who couldn’t marry their partners because they came from different places. Day after day, people sent applications through the service counter that the government set up. As of the moment, the only counter was in Forestzard. The plan was to serve the citizens in the suburbs and regional towns as well. No doubt that more and more applications would be submitted.
「The wedding’s next spring, right? All right. I’ll give them the best blessing they’ll ever get!」
「Are you out of your mind? Everyone will only get nervous if the Queen barged in uninvited. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for them. Don’t ruin it.」
「What? No screen time for me?」
「Why would you have one?」
「You told me there would be plenty of wedding-related agenda in the meetings!」
「Well, of course. There are many decisions to be made that affects the balance of power between the seven regions. With that in mind, we can’t use existing wedding halls or church, so we have to raise money to build a new one. We need to decide who will manage the whole affair as well or if we need an actual position for that.」
「It’s the government’s job to settle stupid things. Want some tea?」
「Yes, please! With lots of sugar!」
Zofira took water from a pot to make tea.
「So about the war… Your cousin’s still in Ponsonia, right?」
「You mean Aglaia? She is.」
「You’re not calling her back? At best Ponsonia’s forces and the combined army of Austrin and Einbeast will be evenly matched. If things go sideways, the royal capital might turn into a sea of flames.」
「She’s old enough to make her own decisions. She seems to like her life in the capital.」
「Really? Is she into really old men?」
「I mean, that guy she’s with, Viscount Gafrasti, is an old man, right?」
「Why do you have to drag romance into everything? I don’t think that’s proper behavior for a queen.」Zofira placed Marquedo’s teacup before her.「Your Majesty. Our first agenda is how to unite all of Forestia. Only the heavens know of Ponsonia’s fate, so let’s forget about that. We just need to be ready regardless of who wins.」
「Then here’s more paperwork.」
「Your. Ma. Jes. Ty.」
Until the next scheduled meeting, Marquedo waded through all the paperwork.
Ponsonia might be Forestia’s neighbor, but to them, the Kingdom’s internal discord and Einbeast’s invasion was none of their business.
「P-Professor! Did Hikaru really return to Ponsonia?」
When Professor Mille—full name Mille Crepes van Quad—returned to her homeland of Jarazack, snow had already blanketed the lands. There she met the members of the student alliance—Ivan, and the main stars of the mass wedding: Claude Zahad Kirihal and Luka Lordgrad Ludancia. And for some reason, Jarazack’s leader, Alexei von Jalzard Jarazack, was there as well, which made Mille a little uneasy.
「So, uhh… why is our leader here…」
「Mille. Call me Boss.」Alexei said.
Mille found it difficult to interact with the man. She probably could deal with him after a mug of beer first, but she might just get sick instead.
「The Boss is also curious about the monster outbreak in Un el Portan.」Ivan said.「Hikaru went there too.」
「I heard this Hikaru boy is quite strong. Why didn’t you bring him with you?」
「Uh, like I said earlier, he returned to Ponsonia.」Mille answered.
「Huh… So he’s going to war to make a name for himself? Kid’s got balls! All right, Ivan! You join him and make a name for yourself too!」
Whoa, time out. You can’t do that. It’ll cause an international problem, Mille thought, but realized it might be Alexei’s way of making a joke. Ivan seemed to think so too.
「You can’t joke about things like that.」Ivan said.
That’s even worse. What do we do about this musclehead? Mille thought, when Luka joined in the conversation.
「Is Hikaru going to be all right? I know he’s from Ponsonia, but he didn’t seem the type to put his life on the line for his motherland.」
「I think so, too. Apparently he has some friends there. Katy also went with him.」
「She went with him to Ponsonia?」
「She mentioned something about a relative there…」
Mille didn’t know the details. On the morning of their departure, Hikaru suddenly said he was going to Ponsonia. When Katy learned that a town called Pond would be the center of the battlefield, she wanted to come too.
「If I let this chance slide, I might not be able to see that person again.」Katy sounded grim.
「I’m sure Hikaru will be fine. You should worry about yourselves. You still need to get your outfit tailored, right? I doubt your family is giving you aid.」
「Ah, yes. You’re right.」Luka said.
「Yeah, we’re really having trouble financially…」Claude nodded.
Luka was the third daughter of Ludancia’s ruler, but her family had cut ties with her because of the wedding. It was the same for Claude. Marquedo, who hailed from the same region as him, gave her vote, but the Zahad family was an enemy of the Queen.
「I’ll make some money this winter as an adventurer.」
Claude’s skills with the sword was already on the same level as Alexei’s, and Luka could use magic. Ivan also wanted to train, so the three of them formed a party.
There were monsters that only appeared during winter. Competent adventurers could make money by taking kill quests or selling materials.
The three of them were getting excited about adventuring, and Alexei even wanted to join them.
Will you really be okay, Hikaru? Mille wondered. God, I’ll even stop drinking until you come back if it means you’ll be safe.