Editors: Storm Loki, Khree, Darkdhaos
Regis became a strategist.
Although he wasn't confident, he had to make it work somehow.
He had quietly told Altina the best course of action. Having been acknowledged as the commander, she issued the orders to the troops.
"I order Sir Jerome to lead 100 cavalry to intercept the enemy. Find out the number of enemy forces and form a battle front if possible... If the enemy force is too large, you are to withdraw with the safety of our forces as the priority!"
General Jerome who became her subordinate willingly because of the duel led the cavalry out of the fort.
The sound of hooves, clashes of iron and courageous roars came from beyond the stone walls.
Turning his back to the sound of battle, Regis and Altina headed for the central tower.
At the top of the central tower was an observation post overlooking the battlefield, and doubled as a conference room to simulate battle tactics.
First, he needed to treat the wounds Altina sustained during the duel. She had won because of the founding emperor’s sword and some luck, but she was heavily injured and it wouldn't be strange if she needed to be carried on a stretcher.
It must be hard on her, but she still wanted to walk on her own two feet.
The loser Jerome had headed out to battle, so if the winner Altina couldn’t even walk, her objective to display her strength would be meaningless.
Blood dripped slowly on the snow by her feet. The young girl who looked like she was going to collapse dragged her feet and forged ahead.
"Come on, Altina."
Regis beside her couldn’t do anything other than encouraging her softly.
The distance from the parade square to the central tower seemed so far away.
The tower in the middle of the fortress was a massive building made of stone, the main gate was made from steel.
After much effort, they finally made it past the door.
Regis used his body weight to close the door.
The steel door closed with a loud bang.
The passageway enclosed by the stone walls became dark, the sound of fighting seemed far away.
After she was out of sight from the soldiers, Altina collapsed.
She leaned on the wall and panted intensely.
"Al, Altina, are you okay?"
"Yeah... Hah... hah... Ugu... I'm fine... I can... still stand..."
The soldiers in the fortress had headed to their battle stations because of the savages' attack, or were preparing to head out in the parade square. They wouldn’t see the scene inside the central tower, so it was fine to rest here for a moment.
"Altina, all will be lost if you die. Don't push yourself, have a good rest."
And so she rest her back on the stone wall and caught her breath.
Regis sat beside her too.
And looked at her profile.
Her mother might be a peasant, but she was made a concubine because of her exceptional beauty. Altina was said to be even more beautiful than her mother.
Her shiny red hair seemed more glamorous after the dangerous battle, her slightly opened eyes and her ruby like pupils seemed more profound.
While she was exhausted, her skin was whiter than snow without a hint of darkness.
Even Regis who wasn't too concerned about a lady's beauty was captivated.
Her innocent profile reminded him that she was just a 14 year old girl. In the Belgarian empire, only those who were 15 would be treated as adults, so Altina was still a child.
But she was strong.
Be it her skills with a sword or her resolve.
She wouldn’t give up no matter how dire the situation.
Even though her hands were stained with dirt and blood, Regis thought that she looked beautiful just like this.
Her thin porcelain-like smooth fingers looked as though it might snap with a gentle touch. Those fingers wielded a heavy two-handed sword taller than she was, defeating the hero Jerome renowned for his combat prowess.
Her unfathomable arm strength was probably because of her lineage and training.
She was too amazing...
"What is it Regis?"
Altina looked at him.
"Ah, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm feeling much better... rather than that, you are staring at me, what is it?"
"Eh? I, I, I'm staring at you?"
"Yes you are, I can feel my body being pierced by your gaze. Nah, do I look weird? Dirt on my face? Don't hold back and just tell me such matters."
"No, you are fine. Very pretty."
Regis covered his own mouth.
—What did I say to a child five years my junior?!
I was captivated by you because you are too beautiful - A bard from the imperial capital would probably present this song at this moment. But regrettably, Regis didn’t have such artistic talent.
He could only keep quiet and blush.
Altina looked at him with a face of worry.
"Did you catch a cold because you watched the duel in the blizzard? Your face is all red. Take care and don't catch a cold alright?"
Her right hand reached for Regis.
He shuddered at this and backed away.
His reflex was because of embarrassment.
But she seemed to be mistaken.
"Ah... Sorry. My hands are dirty right?"
"No, it's not that."
"Ah, don't mind me, I don't like flattery or sympathy. My hands are totally different from the noble ladies right? It's full of sweat during training and the dirt and blood from the duel."
"...I mean it, it's not that."
Regis reached out his hand this time.
Even if his heart was beating wildly, he was still determined to resolve this misunderstanding.
He placed his hand on top of Altina's hands.
"Your, your, your hands are really pretty, these are hands that carried out your own will... Erm, because I don't have experience with intimate contact with females, so... I'm not used to touching girls, so I was a bit startled."
Although he succeeded in making her understand, he missed the chance to retract his hand.
Regis thought about it.
This scene was the same as one in a book he read not long ago. He remembered it was Cuiller Romeros' 'Rawl's love journey'.
— I took the young lady’s hand, letting it caress my face and kissed the sweet flower petals...
If the story progressed in that direction, he would be hung for disrespecting royalty, master Cuiller!
Regis was very troubled.
It was a pity, but the main character in any story wouldn’t be so useless and let go of a girl's hand without doing anything after praising her beauty. He didn’t have anything to refer to.
Just as he was wondering what to do and was petrified,
Cough cough, he heard a coughing sound made forcefully.
He turned back and saw a maid in blue uniform - Clarisse smiling at him.
"Do you want to accumulate experience in touching females with the princess who can't even walk as your partner in private? Mr. Regis."
"Eh eh?! I wasn't planning on doing that."
"You are unexpectedly devious."
"What did you plan to do to the princess?"
"Not, not planning to do anything!"
"Is that so? I was wondering if the princess needs treatment."
"That's it! Of course. Eh... The troops will see her in the infirmary so we can't go there. Go back to her room with changing her clothes as an excuse, then summon the doctor over."
Altina nodded in agreement.
Clarisse expressed her understanding.
"I understand. And so, princess."
Altina placed her hands on the wall and pushed herself up.
"Fuu... Finally, strength has returned to my legs."
Her face looked at ease.
Regis straightened his back too.
"Don't push yourself too hard."
"They are beginning the battle out there right? I am acknowledged as the commander after winning the duel, so no one will treat me as a bother."
"... There will be problems if you act too recklessly; Death will certainly come... my death from stomach ulcer."
"Ara, that will be troubling. I worked so hard for you to become my strategist."
"Altina, quickly return to your room and receive the treatment from the doctor properly."
"These words... is it the advice of a strategist? Or a fifth grade admin officer? Or as a friend?"
"It is of course as a strategist. We promised."
"Hmmp.. Well, I have to listen obediently."
Altina started to walk and Clarisse followed in silence quietly.
She didn't support her, just walking alongside her, but she was in position to help if Altina faltered.
"... Then again, why is Miss Clarisse here?"
The plan was for her to wait at the carriage.
"Because I believe the princess will win the duel and return to her room. But I didn't expect Mr. Regis to be holding her hands so tightly."
"There, there was a complicated reason behind that, just like in the stories... And that is, well..."
This time, Altina was blushing together with Regis too.
Although Clarisse's words were full of impact as usual, her expression was gentle.
"Mr. Regis, please leave the princess to me."
"No, I will accompany you for a while. I have delegated Sir Evrard to be the second wave."
Evrard was the knight commander of Beilschmidt border regiment, a fierce veteran and reliable warrior.
Clarisse seemed to understand and nodded.
"That means you want to watch the princess get undressed while being treated."
"I didn't say that?!"
"I know. You are worried about the princess."
"But I am worried about the princess' purity."
"You are making me out to be a beast no matter what... Hah, I never thought of such a thing before."
Clarisse's gaze drop downwards.
"Is that so? I was wondering if that is fine for a man."
Altina looked confused.
Clarisse patted the head of the staggering Altina.
"My princess is so cute~ my princess."
"Eh? What's going on?"
"... Miss Clarisse is the worrying one, she will probably teach Altina some weird things."
Regis mumbled to himself.
For the princess without a single friend in the palace, her common knowledge was shockingly lacking.
She would be an adult one year later and be of marriageable age. Regis was a bit worried, but everything he knew came from books anyway.
To be honest, it didn’t feel real for Regis to have this conversation. His status was too different from Altina, it was normally impossible for them to chat idly.
She was the princess as well as the commander. Her rank was major general... In comparison, Regis' family had been commoners for generations. He might be a strategist now, but his rank in the army was just a fifth grade admin officer.
Major general, brigadier general, first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade, their ranks were six tiers apart.
Having permission to address her by her nickname was nothing short of a miracle...
Regis shook his head strongly to remove unnecessary thoughts.
The soldiers outside were engaging the barbarians. His job was to think of the battle plan, even if his confidence was lacking.
"Well, I will go to the observation deck at the highest floor and direct the battle from there."
"I'm leaving it in your hands, Regis."
"I believe in you, Mr. Regis."
Clarisse was smiling with ease.
After parting with them, Regis ran up the stairs.
He was exhausted when he reached the top floor.
He rested his hands on his knees, focusing on sending air into his lungs.
"Fu... fu... fu... fu..."
"Are you okay?!"
A young knight ran over.
About 16 of age, younger than Regis.
His blond hair was tied up at the back, he had blue eyes and a slim face, a handsome man with a refreshing expression.
He was wearing top grade metal armor with a golden longsword at his waist, a character right out of a novel. His voice was as clear as a girl.
"Are you hurt anywhere?!"
"Eh? Ah, no..."
Regis who was confident in his lack of confidence to the extreme, was hesitant in telling the youth younger than him that climbing the stairs was killing him. He still had that meager amount of pride in him.
He shifted his gaze and regulated his breathing.
"Fu... fu... hah.. not... it's nothing."
"I'm glad you are healthy, Sir Regis."
"Eh? Have we met before?"
"My name is Eric Michael de Blanchard."
Eric bowed before him politely.
When Regis heard the last name Blanchard, he recalled a familiar name.
"Could it be... You are Sir Evrard's grandson? I remember you were in Marquis Thénezay's army."
Regis heard from Evrard that his grandson was in the same unit where Regis used to worked as a staff officer.
The Barbarians they were battling attacked the gap in their formation, wiping out Marquis Thénezay’s headquarters. Eric was saved because of Regis' command, or at least Eric thought so.
For Regis, he thought the combat officer of the reserves unit deserved the credits.
He took another good look at him.
This must be what they mean by graceful appearance.
The knight commander Evrard was like a gorilla in armor wielding a halberd, a giant bald man with a short beard. Regis thought he was still in his prime, but was shocked by how old his grandson was.
But most surprising was the lack of any semblance between the two.
Eric's face was blushing from agitation.
"The steady figure, calm attitude and precise command of Sir Regis back then... I was convinced you are the man I should bet my life on and devote my service to."
His tone was strong, but not crude.
His refreshing smile was elegant like a shining fountain.
Holding Regis who almost died just climbing stairs with such high regards, Regis felt sorry about it.
"... I heard you volunteered to come here?"
“Yes! I just reached here last night. I wanted to greet you, but you seemed to be busy.”
“Not many people would want to come to the front lines here. This is a dangerous place."
"That's why I am here. I was saved by Sir Regis, this time I will become Sir Regis's shield."
"... I am very grateful... But I am not worthy."
"Didn't you assume the post of strategist? I saw the duel and your declaration just now."
He had to say that in that situation. It wasn't a lie, but to Regis who wasn't used to being the center of attention, he wanted to curl up into a ball.
"... Would I be able to serve well in the role of a strategist... And the commander of the border regiment is the fourth princess Marie Quatre. A knight should swear fealty towards a princess right?"
Although Regis was granted permission to address Altina by her nickname, he still avoided doing so in the presence of others to prevent bad rumors from arising.
"Of course, as a knight of the Bulgarian empire, my sword would be wielded in the service of the royalty and nobles. But the bonfire of hope you ignited in the despair of the dark would never be forgotten."
That's a line straight from the theatres. Regis read about operas so he didn’t dislike it, but the compliments from others made him uneasy.
"Bon, bonfire... If you mean a lamp, I was carrying one back then..."
He averted his eyes unconsciously.
Eric's excitement didn't cool down as he said with a smile.
"I had brought the princess' sword with me by my grandfather's orders."
Regis finally caught his breath and looked towards the conference room.
A piece of cloth was laid over the table and Altina's Grand Tonnerre Quatre was placed on it. She couldn't bring it along with her physical condition after the duel, so they had to send someone to deliver it here.
The mud and snow had been cleaned off, leaving it in its original glory. It did not even have a scratch after it went through such a fierce battle.
The window partitions leading to the observation deck were wide open, guarded by two knights. They saluted when their gaze met Regis'.
Regis went through the windows and reached a position where he could watch the battle. The snow was slowly piling up.
The wind blew towards his face.
This was the second time he came to the observation deck of this conference room. The previous time was the following morning after first arriving at Sierck Fortress when Altina showed him around.
The scenery before him was spectacular then, but the view was obscured by snow this time and he couldn't see far into the distance. This wasn't the time to enjoy the sights anyway.
The battle was progressing before his eyes.
Sierck Fortress was constructed on the grounds sloping towards the north. A large group of soldiers were gathered in the parade square, waiting for the signal to deploy. Setting the forces on defense duties aside, the standby units numbered 2000.
The 300-strong cavalry was sent out.
They faced 600 savages.
The situation had evolved from the initial clash to glaring at each other from a distance.
If they engaged in melee combat, they would fight until one side retreated. But with proper command and control, it was possible to pull some distance away for a chance to rest before unnecessary casualties were caused by fatigue.
Jerome and Evrard's cavalries adopted a formation defending the fort. The barbarians set their eyes on their prey, waiting for a chance from afar like beasts.
On the snow-white plains ravaged by footsteps, several people laid down with no signs of movement. Although the savages had greater losses, the empire's cavalry also had casualties.
Eric came to Regis' side.
"What a great number for the barbarians to muster."
"Yes. The barbarians in this region seemed exceptionally strong... And there should probably be more."
"Why do you think so?"
"Look at how the savages are behaving, they are glancing to their back every now and then. If the rear guards were doing that, they might just be worried about their retreat route being cut off. But the ones in front are doing the same, so it should be right to say they are waiting for reinforcement."
"I get it now. But why attack in waves? Is it to buy time to transport artillery?"
"Barbarians don't have artillery. The plan was probably for the 600 vanguard to infiltrate the fortress under the cover of the blizzard and open the gates for reinforcement."
"The savages can use such tactics?!"
"Well, they can do at least this much to take a fort... But they should be retreating after that plan failed. Could they have some reason compelling them to seize the fort?"
The stalemate didn't last long.
The barbarians charged with a roar.
The battle started anew.
Bracing their lances, the cavalries prepared to engage. This should be their victory in normal cases. It was not surprising for 300 cavalries to rout 600 savages with ease.
But there were many strong warriors amongst the barbarians, making them a match for the cavalries.
Leading all the barbarians was a man in flamboyant attire wielding a giant war axe. Both his appearance and his power were prominent.
The cavalries facing him attack with their lances.
The lances were then broken by the war axe.
The man then leaped deftly like a monkey, going higher than the horse's back and slashed his war axe with one hand.
The knight bled profusely from his head.
And fell limply from the horse.
There were few savages that could defeat knights one on one. Not the knights with empty titles living lavishly in the imperial capital, but the ones in the front lines. It was unusual for them to fall so easily.
Regis who was watching sighed.
"That is the... Barbarian king?"
"Who do you mean?"
Eric beside him asked.
"According to the scouting reports, there was a powerful figure that united at least three barbarian tribes."
"I see, so that's their king?"
"I don't know about their hierarchy make up, but calling the biggest fish in the pond as the king should be common."
"And thus, the barbarian king."
Eric nodded in enlightenment.
His voice was calm with no hint of a smile. Now wasn't the time to chat happily.
They lost two more riders.
Jerome charged over on his jet black horse. He wasn't in armor as he was dueling in uniform and moved out in this attire.
He wasn't holding the thin spear used in the duel, but a silver lance.
Regis pointed at Jerome.
"That is Sir Jerome's lance 'Le Cheveu D'une Dame' (Dame’s hair). It is famous as the weapon of heroes. 4.2Pa (311cm) long, the tip is made from fairy silver."
"Fairy silver was said to be a gift from the fairies to the 'Flame Emperor'.
"There was a legend like that... The current theory says it is some form of natural alloy."
Smelting several types of metals and mixing them to form material better than iron, this was common knowledge in this era.
Jerome thrusted with his lance. The attack was so sharp even the bystanders could tell from afar that it was better than the other knights. The lance shot forward in an instant.
The barbarian king blocked it with his war axe and tried to close the gap in order to counter attack.
Seeing through his opponent's intention, Jerome thrusted his lance at his enemy.
When the lance was about to hit, the barbarian king twisted his upper body to dodge.
Not giving the barbarian king time to recover, Jerome aimed for his heart and pressed the attack. It was parried by the war axe again.
Jerome's enemy retreated.
They were about equal in abilities, but his weapon and being on a horse gave Jerome the edge— Regis analysed the battle before him.
Eric leaned forward.
Evrard was dispersing the savages with his giant halberd.
"Hmmm, as expected of the knight captain."
"I want to fight too! Sir Regis, allow me to reinforce them! We should send out the third wave if the enemy has reinforcements right?"
That was the normal course of command. No matter how the process goes, all the forces will be deployed from the front.
"The enemy will run if we send in more troops at this point."
"Isn't expelling them the objective?"
"You are correct, but they will definitely try again... If possible, I want this battle to affect all future engagement as well."
"Future engagements? What do you mean?"
"Eh... Pen and paper...?"
Eric ran to the conference room and brought paper, pen and ink over.
Regis thought about using the table, but he remembered the 'thundering quartet' placed on it.
It will be a huge mistake that would be chronicled in the history book if he dripped ink on the sword. And Regis felt he might do just that with how preoccupied he was.
"... Sorry, could you hold the ink for me?"
Eric took the place of a desk.
He started to write hurriedly.
"Erm— will this do? This should be easy to understand..."
He signed off and rolled the paper up. The ink wasn't dry yet, but it's fine if it was legible.
He handed it to Eric.
"Please deliver this to Sir Jerome, Sir Evrard and the commander in the parade square."
"Understood! This is the very first order of the strategist!"
"Hmm? Ah... That is true..."
"Since its Sir Regis, there must be brilliant instructions written on it."
"Hahaha... That is impossible. It's still manageable when a unit is around 300 men, but for the border regiment with 3000 soldiers, skilful command is just paper theory."
"Is that so?"
"That's how it is if you don't prepare the orders. Commanding in this era is like predicting five steps ahead in chess and giving instructions."
Eric looked at the paper in his hand.
"You mean... You had written the next five steps in this?"
"Well, you can say that."
"That is like a prophecy."
"I can't divine the future, and I heard it's not anything good either... I just coincidentally read similar battle records and happened to know about this."
"I will deliver this message even if it costs me my life!"
No no. It's okay to lose it, I can just write another one. Just don't get hurt."
"Yes, alright... I understand."
Practically speaking, writing the same thing wouldn't work as the battle progressed, but Regis was afraid Eric might be too young and rash.
As Eric was leaving, he said to the knights on standby:
"You guys too. There is nothing else for you, so I leave escorting Eric to you."
They looked at each other in surprise, then saluted to express their comprehension.
The three knights left the conference room.
Regis supported his face with his hand while leaning on the railing of the observation deck.
Should he have told Eric the future of the empire was depending on the safe delivery of the message?
That would definitely improve his morale...
"Hmmm, usually, young soldiers in such positions are reckless with their lives~~"
The man on man fight between Jerome and the barbarian king was intense.
It was clear even on the observation deck that Jerome's attack was filled with blood thirst.
That doesn't mean he was going easy on Altina back then, but he was definitely fighting without intending to kill the princess.
The barbarian king was good too, fending off the consecutive attacks with his war axe while looking for an opening to break the lance and counter attack.
If the lance wasn't made from fairy silver, it probably would have broke.
In the end the war axe cracked in a clash, forcing the barbarian king back.
Jerome wanted to press the attack, but Eric made it just in time.
The orders were relayed—
Jerome was far away from Regis, but he still glared at him.
The distance from the observation deck to the battlefield was vast and Regis shouldn't be able to see the expression. But Jerome somehow conveyed his anger.
It couldn't be helped since this was a battle.
But if the distance wasn't this far, that gaze might have stopped Regis' heart.
What would he have said if they were within speaking distance?
A short moment later—
Jerome's 100-strong cavalry and Evrard's 200 riders cleared to either side, leaving a route to the fortress.
He wasn't happy, but Jerome carried out his orders.
At the same time, the main gate opened.
The giant metal gate opened outwards.
At this time, the sound of footsteps rushing to the conference room could be heard.
Regis turned and looked.
"Ah, it's here!"
Altina barged in, her left wrist in a sling. She wore a new dress, wearing all her armor except the ones on her chest and left arm.
Behind her is the maid Clarisse and —
A woman in white.
That lady looked displeased.
"Princess, didn't I told you to rest quietly?"
Wearing spectacles that were expensive in this era and with her hair cut to the same length, she gave off the impression of a man.
Her identity was the imperial doctor, 29 years of age.
Regis didn't get her name. Female doctors were rare in the empire, and Sierck Fortress only had one doctor, so everyone addressed her as the lady doctor.
Just like Clarisse, she seemed to have followed the princess since her time in the palace.
Altina looked much better.
Regis smiled with relief.
"Hi. Are you fine now?"
"You are not fine!"
The lady doctor squinted her eyes behind her glasses and roared.
Altina shook her right hand.
"I am really fine! I can walk normally now. Lady doctor is overprotective."
"You have a fracture!"
"I know but..."
Regis asked in shock, the lady doctor nodded in irritation.
"Really, you are the princess. Full recovery will be in three months. Princess, please don't increase my workload."
"Wouldn't it be boring if you don't practice your medical skills?"
Altina refused to compromise.
"Wild animals were said to continue hunting even if they suffer a fracture. That's how it is, nothing we can do about it."
Regis and the lady doctor sighed deeply.
"Hah~~... Our princess is just like the grey wolves."
"What? It can't be helped since it was a duel! That aside, how goes the battle, Regis?! Have we won?!"
Altina stood beside Regis and watched the situation from the observation deck.
Her expression changed.
"Huh?! What is happening?! Won't the enemy march right in?!"
"Well... Jerome and Evrard split to either side and the main door is left open. We will intimidate them with the possibility of attack from three sides."
"In such a situation, they should be guarding the front of the fortress, and split to either side after the reinforcements are deployed!? If you open the main gate before them, wouldn't the enemy charge in?!"
Altina analysed the situation deftly.
Regis was impressed.
"Impressive. You have memorized the basics of tactics!"
"It is obvious there is a catastrophic failure here! The enemy will enter via the main gate... Ah, they are coming in one after another!?"
The savages charged into the parade square in front of the central tower.
They were engaging the empire troops who had mustered for reinforcement.
The lady doctor's face turned pale.
"Hey, Mr. strategist, is it really okay?!"
"... For the time being."
Altina stared at him.
"I believe in Regis. So, please explain to me clearly."
"Explanation, how should I... If you are the barbarians — if the defending troops suddenly retreat, and the main gate was wide open, what would you think?"
Altina answered immediately.
The lady doctor replied "could this be a trap?" Clarisse said "I don't know."
Regis continued to explain.
"Well, that's the few possible opinions. People who attack thinking it's a chance, some who are wary about the possibility of a trap and others who don't understand and can't take any action... They will definitely split in their opinions. It's a tough question, a real battle is different from chess, the actions might be unorthodox... The soldiers are battling under the delicate psychological balance of fear and glory."
"Won't they attack en masse and then play by ear?"
"If they knew this was happening, it might be possible to maintain command. But the barbarians doesn't have a clear chain of command, so they will be slow to attack if they spot an unexpectedly good opportunity."
The lady doctor tilted her head.
"Why would they attack together even though it's possible this is a trap? I won't go if it was up to me, I will decide my things on my own."
"Because the empire's cavalry are watching from the sides. They have to follow if their comrades charge, they will be attacked on both sides by the cavalries if they stay."
"Ah... I see... So they have to go along."
"Yeah. But the riders will be faster in climbing up the snowy slope, so Sir Jerome and Sir Evrard's riders will return to the main gate faster than them."
It was as Regis said.
Only 200 of the 600 savages made it into the fort. The slow advance of the enemy was cut off by the cavalries from the side.
The horsemen turned into a double wall in front of the main gate.
Altina clapped her hands.
"I see, divide and conquer!"
"... That's part of it."
"There's another reason?"
"Splitting them is just a means... A way to surround the strongest chess piece of the enemy... The barbarian king is very strong, even Sir Jerome finds it hard to subdue him... Judging from his personality, he seemed to prefer standing on the forefront of the battle."
Reckless, like a certain princess.
Right right, Altina nodded in agreement.
"That's how a commander should act."
"In my last unit, the headquarters was usually situated in the rear... Anyway, we should make use of this. He should charge in straight if he spots any weakness."
"Mr. Regis, is everything going well?"
"We can probably win."
"What are you worrying about then?"
"Eh? Is that the expression on my face? Oh no..."
"That's how it looks to me."
Altina and the lady doctor stared at him after listening to Clarisse.
Regis scratched his head.
"... On the whole, things are progressing as I expected, but there is one worrying factor. If the savages refuse to surrender, the strategy would be a failure."
Eric had relayed the orders to the soldiers in the parade square.
The soldiers equipped with giant shields to defend against arrows formed a wall inside the main gates, behind them were pikemen ready to attack.
After setting the improvised trap, the gates opened and the barbarians swarmed in shortly after.
The barbarians roared like beast and charged.
The thick wood and leather shields were being ripped apart.
And the pikes thrusted out.
The chest of the savages were pierced, spraying out blood.
The battle would be a failure if they broke through the encirclement. With a large number of noncombatants supporting the soldiers in the fortress, there would be many casualties.
The empire's soldier in the parade square numbered 1000— the barbarians were 200 strong.
They could subdue them under normal conditions.
A man suddenly flew out from the besieged barbarians.
Regis who was watching from the observation deck pointed at him.
"That's the barbarian king.”
"Is he strong?!"
Altina leaned out to look.
One of the savages probably noticed Regis watching them.
An arrow was shot.
Regis didn't even had time to notice.
The iron tipped arrow flew through the air.
Even though he might have avoided the barbarian king's attention, he still didn't have the skill to fend off the arrow.
The tip was right before his eyes.
Altina pounced on Regis suddenly.
A metallic thud echoed out.
Altina used her right wrist armor to deflect the incoming arrow— Regis finally noticed after seeing the arrow falling off.
"What is it?! Are you hurt?!"
"Are are are you alright Altina!? What about your wound?"
"Me? I simply blocked with my armor. It's impossible for arrows fired from a bow to pierce metal armor, right?"
"I am not asking about that."
Anyway, she seemed to be fine.
The barbarian king kept up high, over the heads of the people around him. Using the shoulders of his underlings, he jumped again.
Over the top of the empire soldiers bracing with pikes and shields.
Using a new giant war axe, he smashed the heads of the soldiers.
The soldier beside him swung his sword in a frenzy. The barbarian king dodged and sent the arm flying with his war axe.
His strength made the surrounding people fell into chaos.
How widespread was the damage... Maybe the encirclement had already collapsed.
Years ago, in a battle with Germania, black knight Jerome broke through the enemy heavy cavalry from the front, becoming the hero that turned the tide of war.
Maybe the barbarian king would achieve a similar accomplishment and become a new legend.
... If the strategist was inept.
While Regis was being intimidated by the flying arrow, his plan was underway.
When someone leaped up, they would notice one section of the encirclement was weaker than the rest.
And the barbarian king charged there naturally.
He had to go.
He was forced into such a situation. If he didn't break out of the siege, the members of his tribe stuck inside the fort would be decimated.
Using his tribesmen as a platform, the barbarian king jumped again.
The empire soldiers who weren't armed with swords or pikes lay in wait ahead and threw something out.
The troops shouted in unison.
It was a rope anchored by three lead weights. Mainly used for hunting, it was a throwing weapon known as bolas.
Unlike arrows, it was a wide area weapon, able to hit fast moving critters easily. But it was seldom used in warfare...
Several of it was thrown out at the same time.
The barbarian king wielded his war axe, deflecting three of it.
But one of it entangled his arm. When he flicked it off, another got his legs.
The lead weight hit his stomach and the king fell down with one arm propping himself up.
When he lifted his head, several halberds were in front of him.
A captain-ranked knight roared fiercely "Don't move! You monkey!" as he raised his sword.
"Don't kill him!"
A loud sound that covered the fighting noises in the parade square was uttered clearly.
It was Altina.
Regis' ears were ringing because he was standing next to her.
By her command, the knight stilled his blade, sparing the barbarian king's life.
Regis cupped his ears.
"... What is it all of a sudden?"
"I want to speak with that person."
He didn't catch that because his ears were ringing... Not really, Regis was just surprised by what she said.
For the citizens of Belgaria, barbarians were an existence similar to dangerous beasts.
It was like trying to talk to a man-eating wolf, so others looked at her with confusion.
It was a common assumption that you can't communicate with savages.
Although Regis thought differently... But he was surprised when someone like Altina said something like that.
"Isn't it a pity for a powerful warrior to die like this?"
"... I do not understand how that is a pity. But I agree to a dialogue. In fact, I think it is necessary for you right now."
"I don't really get you, but it seems that you do approve of this."
Altina took a deep breath.
Regis took a step back and cupped his ears. Clarisse and the lady doctor did the same.
Altina shouted once again.
"I, the fourth princess Marie Quatre Argentina De Belgaria! Wish to speak with the king of barbarians! Both sides, cease battle immediately!"
She just shouted out her true feelings.
But the soldiers thought of it as a declaration of victory. It was an announcement of the barbarian king's capture.
And adding in the excitement of the battle, it naturally evolved into this.
The soldiers raised their sword or pikes, cheering victoriously.
"Long live Marie Quatre!! Vive l'Empereur!!"
With the battle decided conclusively, the cheers completely demoralised the savages.
After climbing up the steep slope in a blizzard, battling the tough cavalries and besieged after charging into the fort, the accumulated fatigue was a major contributing factor...
The savages were gathered in a corner of the fort with their backs to the wall, guarded by soldiers with pikes and bows at least 10 paces away.
The blizzard was over, but it was still winter in the northern region.
If this was not resolved overnight, there might be people freezing to death.
Altina and the barbarian king's dialogue must conclude before dawn— Regis thought.
The cheers should be audible outside the fort too... Nearly 400 of the savages didn't surrender, congregating in a bunch a small distance away from the fortress.
It was easy for the cavalry to press the attack, but that was prohibited. Instead, they were tasked with informing the savages about the dialogue between the barbarian representative and the empire's commander.
That was Regis' recollection of the events so far.
He was worried about a massacre happening.
If the savages didn't surrender, the empire's army that had them surrounded might be killed off. It was nothing special, but Regis wanted to avoid that strategically and emotionally.
It was great that losses on both sides were kept to a minimum, Regis breathed in relief.
As Regis thought, the reinforcements of the barbarians appeared shortly after.
They joined the group outside the fort, considering their options as they looked over here— but they remained in place without attacking or retreating.
They seemed to be waiting for the dialogue to end.
Year of the empire 850, the last battle of Sierck Fortress came to an end in a tense atmosphere.
Jerome returned to the central tower with the attitude of the cavalry charge.
Regis was logging the battle reports on the table in the conference room. It should have been done by an appointed personnel, but with all the admin officers chased off by Jerome, there was no one else to fill in the post.
Altina returned to her room to change into a dress for the dialogue with the barbarian king. She couldn't attend the dialogue with her left hand in a sling.
Jerome leaned in close.
"What the hell was that battle plan?!"
"... That... Considering the blizzard, it will be hard to chase them down if they were to scatter..."
"So you let them into the fort?! You allowed the savages to enter! We will be the laughingstock of the neighboring nations!?"
"It's fine, having a 14 year old princess as the commander is enough for them to make fun of us."
Regis calmed him down with soothing words.
"That's good, let them underestimate us. It's an effective strategy for both defense and offence for the enemy to misjudge our strength."
"I get it. This is indeed a strategy someone like you who likes useless schemes would come up with. But you missed out one thing."
"What is it?"
"I, hate people looking down on me!"
"... Is, is that so."
Regis scratched his head, he had not factored that in.
Regis thought Jerome was angry about the usage of the fort as a trap, but it turned out to be a matter of pride.
As expected, reality wouldn't progress like in the books.
Rather than feeling uneasy about his talent as a strategist, Regis just felt uneasy in general.
"Speaking of which, we seemed to have captured savages. Why aren't they dead?"
"The princess wished to have a dialogue with them."
"Dialogue? Is the princess stupid? Barbarians should just be hung or enslaved."
He wasn't finding a fault or bad mouthing her, Jerome was really puzzled by the princess' state of mind.
Regis didn't think the barbarians were wild beasts... But he understood that such views belonged in the minority.
This was also a gamble in order to reach the goal that was too far away.
It would be great if the dialogue with the barbarians proceeded well.
On the flip side, the princess would gain the reputation of being naive and lacking common sense if the dialogue was to break down.
Because the end point of the target was too difficult to reach, they would always face gambles with the odds against them.
"... It's not too late to doubt the princess' intelligence after the dialogue with the barbarian king ends. It's about time."
Regis got up from his chair.
Jerome headed for the exit too.
"I have opened the warehouse. Meat and alcohol will be needed."
"... Ah, I understand."
Regis was wondering what to use as the reward for victory, but it seemed that a feast was the style of this regiment.
That was the case too when they nabbed the bandits some time ago.
In his old unit, those who achieved merit could obtain jewels or art pieces as rewards. Will the troops here be fine without such treasures? Regis was worried about that all this time.
"Thank you for your guidance."
"This is not for you or the princess. It is the duty of the generals to reward his charges."
"I will keep that in mind."
"Hmmp... Don't act humble all of a sudden. Are you mocking me?"
"Your request is hard for me to grasp."
"Just speak your mind. Others couldn't trust you because of the way you act."
"Speak my mind?"
"Yes, just say it without hiding anything."
"... I want a holiday. I want to read books."
"Why the hell would I care!"
Regis' shoulders drooped.
The central courtyard used for training had been turned into a temporary audience room.
Altina was seated in a chair in the middle.
To hide her left arm, a large mantle covered her left shoulder and her knees.
Regis stood to her right while Jerome stood by to her left.
There wasn't any red carpet, but the soldiers lined up in a row, the empire's flag hanging from the tip of their spears.
Originating from the founding emperor's nickname of 'L’Empereur Flamme', the flag was red and decorated with seven swords.
Historically, the first emperor fought under the banner of a pure white flag. But in recent times, all the nations treated the white flag as a sign of surrender or ceasefire.
Between the two rows of soldiers, the barbarian king was brought in.
His arms were tied to his waist, with Evrard holding the other end of the rope. Eric was standing behind him.
Evrard stopped 10 paces away from Altina.
Altina glanced over at him.
"It's fine, bring him closer. It's a pain to talk so far away."
"And release the ropes. I want a dialogue, not a prisoner inspection.
"Princess!? This man moves as fast as a monkey, it's too dangerous!"
It was normal for Evrard to object.
But Altina didn't care.
"You mean I can't beat a bare handed man? And the general revered as a hero is beside me anyway. Wouldn't they mock me as a coward?"
"Ugh... Mah... I understand."
Evrard was worried because Altina was injured, and also the feelings of the troops.
Sometimes, the dignity of being in a high position was more important than personal safety.
The ropes were removed and the barbarian king moved within five paces away.
Regis' mouth was dry from the tension.
Similar to Jerome, the barbarian king looked like he was in his late twenties, wearing clothes made from animal skin and feathers of birds.
All the savages depicted in the empire's drawings showed them as demons defeated by knights, or looking like monkeys or bears. But the king had a noble air about him.
He arrogantly looked down at the princess, refusing to kneel.
There were chairs that elevated the user higher after sitting down, but it couldn't be moved to this temporary audience hall.
"I will introduce myself again... I am Marie Quatre Argentina De Belgaria, princess who is fouth in line to the throne."
The king didn't say a word.
Was it impossible to communicate with words? The soldiers became doubtful.
Regis thought the king looked like he was deep in thought. Regis believed that to be true.
The barbarian king spoke:
"What a long name."
He spoke in the language of Germania, the neighboring nation.
He probably hailed from Germania. And he was educated enough to understand the Belgarian language.
Even with the eruption of war, interaction between the empire and the surrounding nations remained frequent.
It was thus proper manners for royalty and aristocrats to learn the language of neighboring countries.
Although Regis was a commoner, he learned Germanian too during his education in the military academy.
This meant apart from the rank and file troops hoisting the flag, everyone present knew Germanian.
Evrard accused him:
"How insolent of you! This is the princess!"
"Etiquette? Belgarians like meaningless things."
Altina stopped the red face Evrard by raising her hand.
"It's okay, he is not a citizen of the empire. It is strange to ask people who are neither subordinates or citizens to show their respect."
The loyal knight commander understood what the princess meant and shut his mouth,
Altina asked the barbarian in Germanian:
"How should I address you? It is proper manners to introduce yourself after being told someone else's name. Or do the barbarians have no names as the rumor says?"
"We don't see ourselves as barbarians. My name is Diethart, I had left my birthplace behind. And our nation is called Bargainheim."
Jerome smiled sarcastically.
He leaned back exaggeratedly, as if he was scared. He raised his voice for all the troops to hear.
"Hah... What a grand discovery. I didn't know the savages can joke. That dim forest is actually a country! Belgaria's neighboring country was not the Germania trash, but the barbarian nation!"
All the soldiers laughed heartily.
Diethart grinded his teeth as he was being mocked.
But the one erupting in anger was— Altina.
Her right fist slammed on her armrest, shattering the elegant wooden chair into pieces.
The place turned silent.
After coughing dryly:
"It seems like I have to teach you how to receive guests. That's enough, all of you leave."
Evrard protested strongly, but Altina wasn't taking back her words.
She straightened the half destroyed chair with a kick.
"Everyone retreat by 30 paces! This is an order!
Jerome rubbed the scar on his jaw.
"Fufufu... Will that be fine? You might get strangled by the barbarian right?"
"I will be depending on you if that happened."
"What if you were taken hostage?"
"Ara, so you do worry about me."
"Forget it. Chat with that Germania idiot however much you want."
Jerome walked towards the wall.
Regis was planning to leave, but Altina grabbed him by the collar.
"Where are you going?"
Regis thought, didn't you order everyone to leave— other people were present so he answered formally:
"By the princess' command..."
"You are the strategist, this is the your time to work. Any objections?"
"... I am a bit thirsty."
"Ah, I forgot about that."
Regis and Altina stayed behind while Jerome and the troops retreated by 30 steps all the way to the wall. Evrard and Eric kept their distance too.
A short while later, two new chairs, a table as well as red wine was sent over.
Diethart took a seat first.
Altina sat opposite him while Regis stood to one side.
"Doesn't this feel great? It is just like a cafe terrace."
"... Yes. In the courtyard with piling snow, a cafe terrace surrounded by menacing soldiers. This will definitely be popular in the empire. Although I haven't seen one before."
"It might attract a huge crowd."
Altina seemed to be in a good mood and smiled.
Diethart didn't look too friendly.
"Belgarians seem to prefer drinking coffee by the side of a road. How queer."
"The northern nations are cold, so it's understandable. Belgaria has a warm climate and the wind feels nice. That might be so, but I have never visited an open air cafe by the streets before... Just once, I want to try drinking coffee in a nice shop."
If Altina visited a cafe terrasse, it would attract a large crowd of spectators. Drinking coffee leisurely was impossible.
There should be a balcony in the palace— Regis swallowed these words. The coffee in a place filled with the jealousy and mockery won't taste nice no matter what.
Time to go into the main topic.
"Princess, there isn't much time left before the sun sets."
"We have questions for you, Diethart. Are you the king of Bargainheim?
"Nein. We formed a nation but we have no kings. I just happened to be one of the founders, so everyone follows my lead."
"Isn't that a king?"
"I won't take money or food from my fellow citizens."
"Oh, so there is no taxation."
Altina thought it was something fresh and interesting.
"Isn't that great Regis? A country without taxes! The citizens must be so happy!"
"... If the citizens don't think it is unfair."
"Wouldn't everyone be equal if there were no taxes?"
"For example... The fields need to be guarded. Who will decide the order of the watch?"
"Hmm? Wouldn't a representative like Diethart do that?"
"I see. Then the king is Mr. Diethart and the taxes will be in the form of labor as the watchmen. When 2 or more people live together, there will be people who make decisions and people who provide services. No matter what their names may be, they are still the kings and tax collectors.
"Ah, that's how it is."
"No taxation means no country. An organization can't be formed with ideals alone... Although the citizens will still be supportive while the country was still winning battles..."
Regis stopped here.
Diethart glared at him.
"Bargainheim might indeed be a small nation and it is a fact we could not reach our ideals in many areas. But the empire is wrong. We have many people who came to us to escape the tyranny of the empire."
Regis didn't argued and waited for Altina to speak.
This was the dialogue she was hoping for, he can only assist her from the side.
If she wants to take the path of greatness, negotiations such as this were unavoidable. Considering Regis' position, it was possible for the other party to refuse dialogue with him.
Altina needed to take the lead in the dialogue.
"I think the empire is wrong too."
He should have answered instead — Regis regretted his decision and his stomach started to hurt.
Her words probably didn't reach Jerome and the troops standing by the wall in the courtyard. Even so, this wasn't something you should confess plainly to the barbarians.
Diethart was baffled.
"What are you saying? You are not making sense."
"There is no reason why a royalty can't be against the empire right?"
"They shouldn't be able to, that is their position."
A barbarian lecturing a royal princess on what her mindset should be, how troubling.
But Diethart was very well educated.
He was explaining the theory correctly.
Altina shook her head.
"I want to live for my beliefs, and not let others set my position for me."
"So you are going against the empire."
"You want to save the citizen that are treated unjustly?"
"You are wrong. When large armies clash and lead to civil war, the ones who suffer are the citizens."
Regis thought about this too.
But the answer was clear when he reads the chronicles of history.
Altina understood as well.
"If the citizens want to be saved, they should be the ones working hard for it, right? If they are not willing, they can ignore me and continue to conform to the system. Because I am not God, it is impossible for me to erase all the sufferings without letting anyone know. Only the citizens can save themselves."
"But what would be the meaning of your existence then?"
Altina looked towards Regis.
Regis thought Altina was asking for his opinion. But that wasn't so.
She continued immediately.
"I just need a chance... That's all."
"Incomprehensible. Belgarians incomprehensible beautify their sins. Words need to be logical and precise."
Yeah~~ this means... My criticism of the tyranny can push the citizens to take action and save themselves. That is the meaning of my existence. Right?"
"That's too irresponsible. Seeking happiness for your followers are the duties of those with a high status."
Altina tilted her head.
"Regis, do I have that obligation? Am I irresponsible?"
"... Taking action in order to change the empire's system and uniting them and meeting their expectations are your obligations. Keeping the promise is a simple theory that must be followed."
"What about giving up halfway?"
"You will be criticized, that is politics... Or rather, the biggest problem with the empire is the administrators who don't bring happiness to the people don't face criticism or punishment, or lose their authority."
Altina nodded deeply.
"I see. This means the nation I want to create after becoming empress must be able to criticize and punish me if I fail to deliver happiness to the people."
"... That is so."
"After working so hard to becoming empress, you might be executed under the very law you implement."
"That might be possible... Giving up?"
"Why? The ruler's mistake will cause much suffering and death. If that is so, the one who should suffer most should be the ruler, right?"
Regis remembered something Altina said:
"If you want others to risk their lives, you have bet yours too... Something like that..."
Altina was too animated... Although Regis thought so, he didn't say it out. If Altina doesn't think about protecting herself, the people around her can do so for her.
"I will becomes emperor and change the empire for you to see. If my strength is insufficient, I will take responsibility by giving everything up I have."
The expression of the other party changes.
His face that was a mixture of hate and mockery disappeared, replaced by calm and sincerity.
"I get it now... You seem ready to take responsibility. An attitude full of resolve."
"But I don't plan to fail!"
"Seems like I misunderstood you earlier."
"I thought you are someone who oppresses the citizens and didn't even realize that, a shameless royalty."
"You didn't really misunderstand. I can't even bring happiness to a single person. Even the bread I ate today was taken from the person who worked hard to bake it."
"I see... That's how you think about this."
"I learned it from Regis and practice it immediately."
"... I... Might be wrong too... I always believed a country without taxation is the ideal nation... But in reality, the feeling of unfairness is growing among the citizens. Not fixing a social contract created inequality...?"
"That is a possibility."
"A country needs laws, taxation is required for the benefit of society... If I can't make the citizens happy... I would need to accept criticism and punishment as the leader... Although I have the resolve..."
Diethart's words turned heavy as he gritted his teeth.
It's the trouble of a leader.
In order to support Altina who was at a loss, Regis interjected:
"If the leader of an organization wants to change the policy, clashes and criticism unrelated to it will definitely arise. That's why it's hard to make alterations when things are going well. Mr. Diethart, you are right in your judgment."
"... No... Although I realized it is a fraud, I can't correct it... Because I don't have the purity of the young princess."
Diethart looked at Regis, not with murderous intent like before, but with hints of respect.
"Are you a chamberlain? Or a soldier?"
"I am... A strategist... Something like that."
"Strategist. So the man behind my capture was you."
"... The ones who did it were the troops... But I am the one who planned it."
Was he angry about falling into the trap— Regis was scared.
It might be a little too late, but Regis straightened his back so Altina won't see his shameful side.
Diethart seemed resigned when he said:
"If I... Have a strategist like you... I might not have ended up like this."
"You, you flatter me. With the large discrepancy in numbers, winning was only natural."
"No matter what, it is my complete loss... I hope you will not execute the others and at least spare them their lives."
"... That will be decided by the princess."
Altina nodded and continued:
"There is something I want to know... Why did you attack this fort? To seek revenge against the empire?"
"Some citizens of Bargainheim might bear hate against the empire, and some lost their kin in the long years of war. But revenge was not our goal— Germania federation is pioneering into the forest and threatening our territory."
"This is a pressing matter in some ways."
"Yes... Especially this year, we needed more food and shelter with the increase in population. These issues will be solved if we take this fort."
"Ugh~~ I really wish you guys won't fight the empire, but attack the Varden Duchy."
"That is impossible with fort Focker in the way."
"What is that?"
Altina asked with her head tilted.
Regis whispered into her ears in a hurry.
Using a volume only she can hear:
"... That's the fort of Varden Duchy. In its 40 years of history since its construction, no enemy have taken a single step into it. A place worthy of the phrase invincible."
"Ah, so there is such a place."
"... It is shameful for the commander to not know about the enemy fort opposite us."
"I, I know alright. But my opponent so far was something like Sir Jerome or my mood. I will work on those later."
"Well, you are right..."
She wasn't schooled in the way of military commanders, she still needed time to prepare. Right now, Altina was about the age to enroll in military academy.
Anyway — Altina pulled the topic back on track.
"So the people off Bargainheim didn't attack us out of hatred."
"Or rather, that wasn't the main reason."
"That is sufficient."
Altina leaned forward, using her right hand to brace against the table as her left was in a sling under her cloak.
"I don't want to execute you!"
"I have a goal, and I can't achieve it with the troops in this fortress alone... I won't make you my subordinate, but I wish for the people of Bargainheim to help me!"
Altina was serious.
Regis was thinking the same thing.
With just the 3000 soldiers of the border regiment, it was impossible to stand up against the influence of the other princes.
The dumbstruck Diethart considered for a moment.
"I see... Not killing me and making me part of your forces. Very logical."
"That means you will help me right?"
Diethart stopped Altina who was all smiles.
"I won't agree to this just for sparing the life of me and my warriors... We have comrades that bear a grudge against the empire. If I bring back acceptable terms, I will be branded a traitor who sold out his country for fear of my life."
"Ah, you are right... What should we do, Regis?"
"No problem. I have read countless treaty between nations and can make an appropriate proposal."
"Phew... That's a big help, but... Why did you even read those things?"
"Hmmm? Isn't such terms free to read?"
"Was it interesting?"
"Ugh— erm, the early versions were rather boring... Ahh, High Britannia and Netherlands treaty in the year 890 was great — in place of 30,000 pounds of silver, tea leaves weighing the same was sent as tribute; there were treaties like this."
"That country loves tea a bit too much!"
"Hahaha... As part of peace negotiation, marriage and gifts are very common."
"What should we give as presents then?"
"Since both parties are negotiating in secret, there isn't a need for souvenirs... Ah, in my humble opinion, I think it would be unnecessary."
"You could have gone without the formalities... So, what terms should be set for this meeting?"
Regis compiled the good parts of all the treaties he had ever read.
"— Princess Marie Quatre request the nation of Bargainheim for aid. Specifically, to form a common alliance against their neighboring enemy Germania federation. As compensation, food and shelter to tide over the winter will be provided. When the princess ascend the throne as empress, the sovereignty of Bargainheim will be recognized and a non aggression agreement between both nations will take effect."
"Hmm, I see... I don't really get it, but it really sounds like a treaty!"
"You are asking us to be a colony of the empire?"
"I think both sides should be equal in status. Because both man and nation shouldn't have the distinction of being more prestigious than others."
Altina concluded this as a matter of fact.
Diethart was deep in thought.
"I can convince my comrades if these terms can be done."
"That means you will help us right?"
Altina extended her right hand.
Shaking hands might be bad.
Before Regis can stop her, Diethart had already shook his head.
"The troops are watching. The soldiers won't want to follow a princess who treats the king of barbarians as equals."
"Ah, that might be so."
"You have to succeed no matter what, or I will be troubled. This is for the good of my nation too."
"... That aside, this is really outstanding, it's a rare chance to meet such an excellent person... Someone I want to bring back as my partner."
That means becoming his bride!?
"Someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, this is the first time I felt this way. This must be love."
"Wait... Wait a...!"
Altina sprung from her chair with her face all red.
"What should I do, Regis!?"
"What to do... Of courses not. Altina is just 14, she can't legally marry."
"Eh, that's the only reason?"
"... No... It should be dependent on your feelings... As for me... If possible... But I don't have the authority to decide and love should be the freedom of the individual, that's how Cuiller described the best way to achieve happiness in his books... Ah, although that author is a bit flirty towards female characters..."
Regis was panicking because Altina received a marriage proposal.
He can't express himself fluently.
Altina pouts unhappily.
"Is Regis fine with it if I marry him?"
"... From my position..."
"What are you talking about?"
Diethart stood up.
And walked over without hesitation.
Up close, he was taller than Jerome, his shoulders were broad and full of spirit. Maybe it was the feathers and leather clothing that makes the man.
His large hands held Regis's hand, not Altina's.
It was a hand of a warrior's hand.
Regis's hand was thin and white... compared to him, it was really feminine.
Diethart looked at him with passionate eyes.
"If you could indulge me, I wish for you to come over to Bargainheim to guide me."
She squeezed between them and forcefully separated the two.
"Ugh, I understand... There is no reason to let such an excellent strategist go."
"Eh? Ah, Yes. Because Regis is my strategist!"
Did he just wanted to bring me back as a strategist? What a relief — Regis relaxed as he thought.
He read about the aristocrats of Germania federation preferring men. Because Diethart hailed from the federation, it made Regis broke out in cold sweat.
He was just standing, but this is the first time he had sweated so much.
Diethart knelt before Altina.
"Sparing the lives of my people, providing us with resources and treating us as equals... Princess Marie Quatre, I offer you my gratitude for your aid and promise to support you in accomplishing your grand ambition."
"Thank you. I am grateful for the assistance of you and your nation."
Altina nodded deeply.
Diethart finally smiled.
"I pray for your success."
He spoke in fluent Belgarian.
Regis was reminded of the founding of the empire.
800 years ago—
Adrian Belgaria was born in the region of Aquitaine which was ruled by several small nations (Present day western region of Belgaria empire). He had a hard life being raised as a nomad, but it helped him developed unmatched skills in sword and horse riding.
He won every battle he participated in.
And he continued winning.
According to legend, in a battle of wits against the gods, he had a one on one duel with a demon king.
The historical accounts were passed down by words of mouth, so much of it were exaggerated...
Adrian Belgaria became the first emperor of the empire. He was hailed by the people as the Flame emperor because of his hair and eyes that were crimson red.
No chronicles records of when he set his mind on building the empire were found.
The aristocrats claimed the emperor was simply born as one.
Religious teachings preaches he received a revelation from god.
The soldiers and merchants believed that only the victors can call themselves emperor.
Regis thought the most exceptional book he read was the bible. As for why it was exceptional, Regis just needs to state he believes in the bible and save the trouble of arguing with people.
Next would be the works of historical researchers.
Adrian never address himself as emperor — That's what the books proposed.
After the death of King Adrian, those in power deify him in order to use the massive influence of the great leader to stabilize control over the empire. Adrian's son was groomed to become the 2nd emperor, and evidence were presented to substantiate this point.
And naturally, this position wouldn't be openly accepted...
Regardless of the specifics, Adrian led the nomads in a series of battles, uniting the neighboring nations and building up the strength of his country in order to lay the foundation of a gigantic empire.
The times and situation might be different, but Altina who had obtained the assistance of the barbarians might just be taking her first step on the path to greatness.
When he saw Diethart kneeling in front of Altina—
Regis wondered if he was witnessing a historic event, which made his temperature raise.
Diethart was released and he conveyed the result of the dialogue to the barbarians.
Regis thought there would be complications because of the people who hated the empire. But things sailed over smoothly either because of the influence of the leader or the attractive terms of support in the form of resources.
Or maybe they had lost the will to fight to the bitter end.
The next day, the barbarians were provided with tents and preserved food meant for long campaign.
It's not that they don't trust the other party, but it was no laughing matter if the barbarians were to run away after taking the items. There was also the need to exchange intelligence, so 5 soldiers who can speak Germanian went together with the savages.
After accepting the position of strategist during the climax of the duel, Regis had to log down the battles and peace negotiations that happened on the same day.
And he can't just chronicle everything that happened truthfully.
Regis' administrative work increased by 3 folds, something that takes 30 people to managed normally.
He spent every day buried in documents and welcomed the new year without realizing it.
Regis recounted painfully several days later:"Compared to the times when the savages invaded the fort, the retreat when headquarters were burning and facing the grey wolves in the blizzard, I really felt I was going to die..."