Chapter 1: Towns and Stagecoach
Editors: Christian Lungu, Darkdhaos, Chris S, RavenSlither
The military carriage advanced slowly in the darkness of the wilderness with the aid of the oil lamp head lights.
The fortress in front was erected over a mountain.
In the middle of the mountain, black cannons were arranged neatly in a row,
The gate in the middle opened slowly to the side as the torches in the surrounding were lit one by one, strong soldiers held on to their pikes warily.
Two months ago, this was still Varden Duchy's famed invincible fortress. But now, it was part of the Belgaria empire, Fort Volks under the Marie Quatre army.
The driver picked up the oil lamp and passed the information to the soldiers as dictated by the doctrines.
The guard at the main gate confirmed the contents before reporting to his commander.
A moment later.
The guard commander appeared and saluted Regis with his right hand on his left chest.
"Thank you for your hard work, Sir strategist."
"... Ah, same to you... Thank you for your hard work."
Regis who was seated beside the driver lowered his head in a panic. The commander was a old veteran noble of the empire, and held an important post in the army.
Regis was known as 'the strategist that took down Fort Volks' and was highly evaluated in the empire.
-- the one who was victorious was Altina.
Regis didn't say it out loud and just mumbled in his heart.
The carriage stopped at a cave dug from the walls. Regis thanked the driver politely and prepared to return to his room.
Regis carried his luggage and headed towards his room via the stairway. He pondered about the problem of there being too many stairs in this fort.
"You are finally back, Regis."
Regis met the young girl Altina, commander of the army who was on her way down.
In the presence of others, Regis would think about their social position and address Altina as 'princess'. Being too informal might affect the morale of the troops.
But Altina had requested him to use her nickname whenever possible.
Normally, people won't need to worry when talking to a 14 year old girl... But Altina's beauty could make Regis lose himself sometimes.
Her long flame like hair flowed down her back, bright ruby eyes, and porcelain white skin that didn't become damaged because of her swordsmanship training.
Her alluring pink lips were pouting.
No no no, don't think any more, Regis composed himself and walked towards Altina.
"Regis, did you go to town again?"
"Ahh, yes, don't worry. I didn't splurge any money."
"I will stop worrying when you return all the money you owe me."
"Ugh, well... Soon, soon."
"Really, it had been so long I almost forgot your name."
"Eh? It hadn't been long, just 3 days right?"
"Not just 3 days! And you didn't tell me you were leaving."
Regis knew if he told Altina in advance, she would come up with all sorts of reasons to stop him.
But if they went together, they would need a security party for the commander. And a long trip was coming up, so Altina would have to put up with this for now.
"Why did you leave without saying anything..."
"I went to town because of errands, doesn't Altina have duties in the fort too?"
"Alright, I get it. But tell me if you are going out next time."
Altina had been acting like this since fort Volks was taken. Recently, she had been acting like a lonely child.
It wouldn't be surprising for a normal man to harbor feelings for Altina. But Regis had low self esteem, had never thought much about women, and their social gap was really big.
-- Altina's uneasiness probably stemmed from her upcoming meeting with the 2nd prince Latreille.
To make the strong willed Altina so meek, the 2nd prince is a terrifying existence-- Regis thought.
"Altina, it will be fine. Prince Latreille was the subject of bad rumours, no matter how weak your position may be, it is still better than him."
Prince Latreille poisoned the first prince Auguste so he would be next in line to the throne-- such baseless rumours were spreading in the empire.
Between July and August last year, Auguste suddenly vomited blood when he was having dinner and fainted. He had always been frail and never left his residence since then.
Hence, if Altina was attacked in the capital, Latreille's reputation would plummet. Latreille would definitely want to avoid that.
Under such circumstances, Regis was more worried about the nobles on Auguste's side sending assassins after Altina.
Altina tilted her head and said:
"Hmm? Why are you mentioning Latreille suddenly?"
"As a man, it was mean of you to leave without saying anything."
"Well, I am a man who is serious about work."
Eh, only the protagonist in novels could soothe the uneasiness of a lady's heart, it's impossible for me-- Regis shrugged.
Altina changed the topic.
"By the way, Auguste's residence caught fire recently."
"Ahh, I heard about that... From the information gathered from the streets, the empire's official stance says it was the work of bandits, there are no rumours about it being an assassination attempt."
"The empire's guard regiment announced 'this incident was caused by bandits who were after the valuable paintings in the residence'. The guard commander Baudouin resigned because of that."
"Ara, forget the villa, even the palace was burning, I'm glad Auguste is okay."
Altina was the 4th in line for the throne and was aiming to be empress. Considering her position, the first prince being safe wasn't a good thing-- Altina probably didn't consider that and was just happy her brother was safe.
What if Altina hoped for her brother's demise? Regis didn't think deeper and advanced the topic.
"Lieutenant general Baudouin is a noble supporting Latreille. Allowing his resignation without further investigation is baffling."
"Hmm? What do you mean? As guard commander, he has to take responsibility for not being prepared for the bandits?"
"Well... Think about it, no matter how valuable the painting, the bandits won't target prince Auguste's villa right? Doesn't this imply that the guard commander became an abandoned chess piece after failing to assassinate prince Auguste?"
"Regis, you are making it too complicated, I don't understand."
"Oh, is that so? From the looks of things, we should plan for the worst."
"Are you confident with your deduction?"
"Yes, the poisoning incident half a year ago was definitely the same, a scheme acted out by the people in the palace. They just changed the script. Instead of a drama, this is closer to the story in a novel."
"Quoting your books again?"
"Ah, no... No matter what the truth is, we have to take all precautions right? The destination for our trip is the capital this time, so it can't be helped."
"Right, Be it a snake or ghost that is causing trouble, we would feel safer with a sword in hand. Isn't that right?"
"That proverb is probably not meant to describe courage though."
"Ah, eh, right."
As they were chit chatting, the sound of clanking armor drew near.
Looking towards the source of the sound, they saw a large man appearing in the stairway with loud footsteps.
Sharp wild eyes stared right at them, His face had a hint of unhappiness on his lips. The broad shoulder and tight muscles made the man look dignified.
He was the hero with the notoriety of the black knight, Margrave Jerome Jean de Beilschmidt.
"What are you two doing?"
"Erm... I'm making a report about Lieutenant General Baudouin's resignation to take responsibility."
"Baudouin? Lieutenant general? I never heard that name before."
"He was appointed as the imperial capital's guard commander recently. Because of the bandit attack on the villa, he took responsibility and resigned."
"Oh, the capital's guard commander, the trash who was great at sending his charges to death while hogging the glory to himself."
Jerome was a veteran general who left the safety of the capital. He was criticized strongly by the soldiers who grabbed the glory during the civil war. That was the norm for the front line soldiers.
"Regis, putting that trash aside, how did that matter go?"
"... Everything is in place."
The relevant personnel were gathered in the commander's office.
Fort Volks, commander's office--
Germania built the fort into the mountain, so this place had nothing to do with elegance. The white walls and plain black tables decorated this simple room. After capturing this place, the only decoration was just a vase.
Hung on the wall was the flag designed by Altina personally. It had green as its base colour with a giant shield in the middle.
Four people were seated around the sturdy table.
Altina who was wearing gauntlets and shin guard over her gown, the tactician Regis, general Jerome and the knight Evrard who was at the prime of his life.
After Regis finished his report gathered from town--
There was a sudden knocking on the door.
"This is Eric Michael de Blanchard."
A young knight who was not yet 16 walked, his blond hair flowing down his back. He wore his military uniform neatly, the perfect example for the term pretty boy. His voice had a high pitch befitting a girl too.
Eric was Evrard's grandson... But Evrard's bald head, thick black beard and muscles like a gorilla bore no similarity with Eric.
Regis looked towards Altina and explained the situation in detail.
Regis stood up and took the files from Eric and said:
"You are volunteering to be Altina's escort, recommendation was made by Evrard, is that it?"
"Yes! Please allow me to take on this appointment!"
"... The safety of her highness outside of the fort will be in your hands. I am counting on you!"
"I swear on my life!"
Eric closed his lips tight and saluted.
Altina smiled when she saw this scene.
"I will be in your care."
At this moment, Evrard who made the recommendation had an unexpectedly heavy expression.
"I wanted to protect her highness with my own sword."
"That would be troubling for me... Evrard is the guard commander of the fort after all."
Beilschmidt Border Regiment was currently based in Fort Volks. A regiment with 6000 troops, its scale is closer to a brigade. Recently, the soldiers had been calling themselves the Marie Quatre army.
The command structure of the regiment was as follows;
Working under Commander Altina is General Jerome, Strategist Regis and Guard Commander Evrard.
General Jerome commands 500 black knights, 500 mercenary riders, 1000 artillery, 1000 infantry and 2000 mercenaries.
Guard commander Evrard had 1000 fort guards and escort officer Eric.
As for others such as doctors, cooks, armorers and drivers, they had no clear supervising officers.
For the Belgarian empire, all matters within the regiment was decided by the commander.
In this era where communication is done through physical letters, it’s impossible to expect detailed instructions from the capital. Hence, the border commanders were the highest authority in their territory.
Since the previous commander Jerome wasn't concerned with the matters of the brigade, the command structure was severely lacking.
As the command system didn't include cooks and armorers, they were rostered right next to the strategist Regis in the organization chart.
As the seniority of appointments were not clear for some cases, addressing someone could be confusing during staff meetings.
Looking at the saluting Eric, Jerome laughed through his nose.
"Hmm, does this princess really need a guard?"
"Didn't you think the same in the beginning?"
"Fufufu... Compared to the escort, the one being protected is stronger instead."
Eric lowered his head and pursed his lips.
Compared to you, Altina is stronger. It is normal for most people to think that way, since the princess was a match for the hero Jerome.
When he thought of this, Regis shook his head.
"... The princess' sword is too prominent, especially in the capital."
Upon hearing this, Altina looked impressed.
"I got it. Please do your best in places where I can’t bring my sword."
"That's right, there would be a 3 day festival on founding day, and her highness would be attending in the position of the royal princess."
It’s inconvenient to move with that sword which was taller than a man while wearing a gown.
"I hate gowns! Being armed with a sword should be the norm if I am attending as a soldier."
"Don't say such rash words."
"But Latreille wore a sword!?"
"... Because he is the commander in chief of the first army."
"I am the commander of this regiment too."
"... I know, but... Latreille is a man."
"Ugggghhhhh... how frustrating! I won't acknowledge this!!!"
In this era, there were wide distinctions between a man and a woman. Even if their status were the same, the men enjoyed more privileges than the women.
For example, if the child of a noble was a girl, the other male in the family wouldn't treat her as a successor of the clan. The line of succession would fall onto her younger brothers.
Among royalty, this posed all sort of problems.
Altina gestured to Eric.
"Well, forget it. Take a seat."
Eric sat down after receiving the order.
Regis put the next document onto the table.
"Sir Jerome, these are the files for that issue. I have written down in detail the things to prepare."
"Hmmp, buying things again? Where did you get the money?"
"Some of the prisoners of war were nobles in the Varden Duchy... It's not much, but we won't be able to use it anyway if we lose."
The nobles captured during wars could be repatriated for a sum of money, which was an important source of funds for the army.
"It must be hard to have prepared this much."
"In terms of combat prowess, we are still the underdog, we have to make preparations to make up for it."
"They outnumber us several folds, and that is not something that can be settled with just fighting spirit."
"It's great that Sir Jerome thinks this way too... We can't afford to take any losses for our knights, so we need to avoid battle."
"Even if it’s me, I won't make unnecessary sacrifice on the spur of the moment. So stop using those annoying tricks of yours."
"Thank you, I will definitely do that."
"Erm, using stratagem in the battle field isn't bad. But remember Regis, cowards on the battlefield are the ones closest to death.
"... Thank you for your advice, I will keep that in mind."
Jerome took the documents from the table and put it in his pocket after a glance.
Altina said with a stunned expression:
"What was written on it?"
"... A back up plan in case of emergencies. Preparation others won't see if we don't do anything... The next time the empire summon us, I will set up camp near the capital with my black knights, I think that would be better."
"I feel the same way, but is it okay to act so arrogantly within the empire's territory?"
"That might be so, but it’s not strange to have an escort of such scale for royalty."
"Isn't that just putting up a false front?"
Altina refuted the statement with a hand gesture.
"... But as a royalty, wouldn't bringing too few escorts invite ridicule?"
These words had the opposite effect and Altina's eyes turned sharp.
"Wouldn't we be the same as those nobles if we do that? I think splurging our tax money out of vanity isn't right! We should travel the same way as commoners in coaches."
"What, what did you say? Isn't it obvious that that is impossible?... Ah, no, I mean this is beneath your status, your highness."
"Didn't Regis travel this way from the capital to Tuonvell? On a coach, and the cheapest one at that."
"That's because the unit's funds were running low though."
"It's decided! We travel by coach! I have never took one before, I am looking forward to it!"
"Absolutely not!! I won't allow such a dangerous thing!"
Before Regis could object, Evrard's protested loudly and Eric nodded in agreement.
Jerome seemed to be enjoying himself, laughing heartily.
"Fu haha! Isn't that great? Let her go if she wants to, let the others laugh at her."
"... What exactly did the people in the palace tell you..."
What a failure-- Regis thought as he hugged his head, he shouldn't have mentioned the budget in front of Altina.
Altina pondered about the words she heard from Regis for a long time and made an unreasonable reply.
A royalty mingling with the peasants, traveling to the capital by coach.
"... Ah... I read something like this from a book."
In the book he read previously, he saw a similar plot development.
Altina looked uneasy.
"What is it Regis? Are you angry?"
"Ah, no... thinking carefully, this isn't a bad idea. The nobles would pick on us anyway, like the color of the dress or the hair accessories..."
Since they would be criticized for acting conservative, why not make a gamble.
Altina's dream couldn't be achieved by taking the normal path.
Year of the empire 851 April 9th--
The coach set off in the morning fog.
4 chestnut colored large horses shook their heads as they advanced at a steady pace.
This was a coach similar to the one that makes a daily round trip from Tuonvell town and Fort Sierck.
This coach could seat 12 passengers at once, with 3 rows of 4 seats. The top of the coach is the cargo compartment.
Seated in the middle row were Regis, Altina, Clarisse and Eric.
Clarisse was the personal maid of the princess, accompanying her since her days in the capital and was a lady two years older than Regis.
Her long brown hair flowed down her back, she wasn't in maid uniform as she was traveling. In its place, she wore a blue one piece skirt with a red band around her waist and a white shawl on her shoulders.
Her elegant features made her look more like a lady attendant than a maid.
The seating order starting from the right were Regis, Altina, Clarisse and Eric. The men were seated on either side to protect the ladies.
This was so even for Regis who had the weakest arm strength.
Altina smiled awkwardly after looking at Regis' waist area.
"How rare to see you wear a sword."
"... I felt it was weird not to bring anything, so I searched for it in my room yesterday."
Regis said after tapping the sword on his waist:
"That's right, a soldier without a weapon is not a soldier. When I heard you pawned your sword some time ago, I was wondering what happened."
"Ugh... Sorry for making you worry."
(I pawned my weapon to get the money to buy books, but Altina fortunately loaned the money to me and repaid all the money on hand.)
"Are you doing maintenance seriously?"
"It's no good if you don't treasure it..."
"Even I will oil my sword properly too."
Altina's sword was known as the "Grand Tonnerre Quatre", and was rumored to be bestowed by the fairies to the founding "L’Empereur Flamme" made from Tristei.
Any weapon which opposes it would be shattered into pieces, and would not be damaged by spears or guns. It was rumored to never rust, bend or break.
But the sword was bigger than Altina, so it was placed in the cargo compartment on top of the coach.
To add on, Tristei was hypothesised by researchers to be 'a natural alloy'. An artificial alloy developed using this theory were being mass produced in High Britannia because of its excellent quality.
Regis felt slight resistance when he drew the sword from its sheathe. But the sword was then pulled out smoothly, displaying its shiny body.
"... The condition looks great."
"Ara, that's unexpected. I thought you would ignore it, I have a better impression of you now."
"... I did ignore it. I saw Eric polishing my sword though."
"Give my feelings back!! Return them!!"
"Ah, even if you say that..."
Altina turned to Clarisse's position and said while looking at Eric.
"That's not good, don't spoil him!"
"Yes! But sir strategist seemed really busy, so I help him with sword maintenance since I can't help in other ways. Is that alright?"
"I know he is busy, but--"
Altina turned to face Regis.
"If that is the case, you could have just asked me, why did you let Eric do it?"
"Eh?? Erm... Using common sense, isn't it weird for a 5th grade officer to trouble a Major General for sword maintenance?"
"Why would it be, I am free anyway."
"If that is the case, go and settle that mountain of documents..."
"Ah!! I see the castle! Is that castle Sierck?"
Altina used a strong voice to direct everyone's gaze over there.
Altina stood while leaning on her sword. She was great at analysing issues, but was lacking in reading and writing, always looking to avoid paper work.
That's why documents that did not require the commander to sign off were handled by Regis. It wasn't much compared to Regis' total workload...
Regis simply shrugged when he saw this, while Eric simply smiled awkwardly.
Clarisse was as still as a mannequin, because she knew Altina and Regis were just playing around. She would normally smile as well, but Clarisse always showed her poker face in the presence of people besides Altina and Regis.
Aside from Eric, the rows in front and behind were full of soldiers.
The strong soldiers wore light armor under their jacket. They also wore their sword, making their clothes look like a tight fit.
The coach was loaned by the empire army right now.
This was Regis' suggestion.
"We might be mocked by the nobles, but we will earn the respect of the commoners, it's a good trade off."
"You read that in a book too?"
"What do you think? Would a commander gain the goodwill of the citizens by riding in such a coach?"
"Yes, compared to riding in luxurious carriages, doing it this way will garner more support from the people."
"But there is a theory among the aristocrats that 'when the ruler looks extravagant, the citizens will feel proud'."
"... It might be so for prosperous places like the imperial capital, but we are situated to the north, near the borders and are impoverished."
"That is true, when life is hard for the peasants and the rulers act extravagantly saying 'be proud of how elegant your lords are', how infuriating is that."
"Among the aristocrats, there are many who can't understand this."
"Erm, I might think that is so before this. Thanks for telling me all that, Regis."
"Ah... No... This is your highness' proposal in the first place."
Renting a coach and riding it along with the escorts, he only heard of such stories in books.
The coach moved slowly in the wilderness, going deeper into the forest.
After capturing Fort Volks, the empire revitalized the road leading to it. Because of the barbarians in the forest, the guards were very tense.
Altina leaned towards Regis and whispered into his ears:
''Will Diethart be fine?''
"... It's fine, I told Bargainheim about this trip, so this forest is in some ways safer than the capital."
Regis told Altina in a volume too low for others to hear.
On the 1st day, the coach stopped by the Margrave's mansion to rest.
Elin intruded on the room, causing a quarrel with Clarisse again, Altina drew her sword but was unable to calm them down...
The rented stagecoach headed for the next destination.
Altina was in a great mood.
"The people in town had came to send us off~"
"That's right, there were unexpectedly many who are there to express good will."
"Especially those in the merchant guild... What did we do?"
(What an eye for detail) Regis laughed awkwardly.
"Could it be, you... You hired them to send us off?"
"Even I wouldn't do such despicable things. Because of this expedition, I had to preorder furniture and equipment from them, that's why..."
Regis wondered if everyone present received jobs from him. The large purchases injected the town with energy, the enthusiastic crowd was there to bid their client goodbye.
"If raising their materialistic entertainment is a compliment to those in power, that isn't too bad."
Seeing the citizens of Tuonvell smiling from the bottom of their heart and expressing gratitude towards Regis, Altina felt what she had done was right.
Serving the Belgarian empire Beilschmidt border regiment, Abidal Evra was grade 2 combat officer, 38 years old.
Born a commoner, he was the youngest of the family of 6 children. Due to his strong body, the skills he had from training with his brothers and his righteous personality, he was evaluated highly by the hero Jerome. He was granted knighthood for his efforts and is now part of nobility.
Right now, he was shouldering the honor of his clan as he continued to work hard.
After the training session ended, General Jerome called him over.
"Abidal Evra, what do you think of Regis and Eric?"
"Sir! An excellent strategist and a promising knight, general!"
"And the princess?"
"A popular commander!"
"Hmm... This answer really fits your style. Okay, Abidal Evra, you will take charge of the security party for the expedition to the capital."
"Sir! It's an honor!"
This was as Abidal Evra expected. (I heard the royal princess was attending the founding day party, general Jerome couldn't leave as he was the covering commander. Sir Evrard was the guard commander, so who else but me could take on this mission?) Abidal Evra thought a bit vainly.
But what Jerome said next baffled Abidal Evra.
"You will be taking a stagecoach and including you, there will be 8 guards."
"Sir! Eh??? A stagecoach? 8 men? Can we protect her highness with these numbers?"
"You can't do it?"
"Ah, no, I can do it if the general wills it!"
"Good, that is all I have for you. This plan was proposed by Regis, he must had scrutinised it carefully, carry on with your duties."
"Sir! Understood, general!"
The hand he was using to salute was trembling.
(Could this be some sort of conspiracy? A plot to kill me along with the princess? Am I bait? Am I fated to die?) These questions haunted Abidal Evra through the night.
The other members of the 8 were less able than him, they were all soldiers picked from forgotten clans.
The residence of the savages was the forest that was full of life.
It felt safer in Sierck fort and Tuonvell town.
Gradually, they reached the streets.
The escort duties were normally performed by a thousand soldiers, but there were only 8 guards including himself.
Abidal Evra's palms were sweating.
The royal princess Marie Quatre was shouting happily.
"Ah Regis! Is that a relay station?"
"... That's right, could this be your first time seeing one?"
"I was surrounded by layers of soldiers when I came from the capital to Sierck fort, so I couldn't see anything and the road was filled with carriages."
"... Well, that should be normal."
Of course! Abidal Evra agreed with the strategist in his heart.
But the strategist should have intervened in this ridiculous situation. He couldn't understand what the strategist was thinking.
Setting off from Tuonvell town, they reached the first relay station after 2 hours.
There was a hilly farmland in the area. It was early April, the season where flowers bloomed, making this place even more beautiful.
In this poor farming village was a small relay station.
The stagecoach briefly stopped here for the horses to rest, and a room for travelers to take a break.
"Good work everyone, let's rest for 30 minutes."
The driver announced.
If it was a normal relay station, the passengers would spread out and chat among themselves.
But Abidal Evra's 8 men team were well trained soldiers with the mission to protect the royal princess.
They hastily dismounted from the stagecoach and took up sentry positions around the area as planned.
Abidal Evra opened the wooden door of the stagecoach from the outside.
According to the seating order, the first to alight was the strategist Regis.
"... Ah, thank you."
Regis frantically pulled his head back.
Swish! Abidal Evra saluted immediately.
The strategist leaned forward and dismounted. What capabilities was this impeccable man hiding?
Fort Volks was well known for being invulnerable before Abidal Evra was even born, but it was taken down by him so easily.
Even I was granted knighthood, so why was he still a 5th grade admin officer without a nobility title?
Knighthood was a nobility title that was only bestowed with great accomplishments. With this title, you will receive higher pay and the rights to buy and sell merchandize freely.
After Regis got off, next was the royal princess Marie Quatre.
Her crimson hair fluttered in the wind, showing glimpses of her snow white neck.
She was a beautiful lady.
Not only was her beauty astounding, her regular training made her body slender, giving off a graceful feeling even though she was simply getting off the stagecoach.
Looking up at her figure with the clear sky as a background, it was like a grand painting in the church.
This was the first time Abidal Evra made contact with the royal princess from such a close distance, making him nervous.
The next to get out was the maid, and the last to go out was Eric.
At that moment, another soldier was checking the safety of the resting area, sending a 'all okay' hand sign.
Abidal Evra lowered his head and asked respectfully:
"Your highness, please rest over here."
"Hmm... I know you mean well... But after such a long ride, my butt is starting to hurt."
"What!! Doctor! Get a doctor quick!"
“Wait! Wait! No need for that! The seat was just a bit stiff."
"Yes! Please take my seat then."
Forget it, the royal gestured with a wave.
The strategist who headed this way because of the commotion smiled happily.
"Hahaha... Seems like it is hard for the aristocrats to ride in stagecoaches."
"That's not how I feel! This is not the problem of stagecoaches. Right now, I am very~ happy alright?"
"Is that so, that's great. If we don't take the stagecoaches now, I don't think we could make it to the festival in time..."
"Uguu~~, Regis thinks the festival is more important than my butt."
"... It's no big deal to change to a coach for me... But it would be bad if the citizens think you were late because 'your butt hurts'."
"It does feels off..."
"This might lead to an unflattering name, you already have one..."
"Ahh, I get it, I said I am fine. By the way Regis, doesn't your butt hurt?"
"... Now that you mention it, it does sting a little when I stand up; the seat was probably too hard. But I have gotten used to the stiff chair in the office, so I’m good.”
“Well… That can’t be helped.”
Looking at the princess puffing her cheeks, the strategist smiled awkwardly.
The two of them seemed to have a great relationship, Abidal Evra who was watching them was surprised.
Abidal Evra felt that soldiers from common birth would have some gap with their superiors, even more so for royalty.
The maid beside the princess started making tea in the pantry, and served it over on a tray. As porcelain tea sets scratches easily, the tea set was made from silver.
“Your highness, the tea is ready.”
“Ah, thank you Clarisse, are the share for the others ready?”
“Sorry for the trouble.”
A gentle smile appeared on the princess’ face and she looked over to Abidal Evra.
“There is still some time, let’s have tea together.”
“Eh?? But… we still have our duties.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. The weather is great and visibility is clear. We will see if anyone draws near.”
“Is, is that so…”
“When it’s time to rest, rest. That’s the job of the soldiers. It would be troubling if you get tired when it’s time to work. Here, for you.”
Abidal Evra received a teacup from the royal princess.
Abidal Evra’s rugged hands carefully received the silver cup, looking at it as if it was a treasure.
“Well then, let’s dig in everyone.”
“Yes! Get the others over too.”
“Understood-- Escort team!!! Assemble!!”
After all the guards had drank their share, they prepared to set off.
The seating arrangement was the same as before, with Abidal Evra seated in the center of the back row. His back was straight, in order to protect the things he needed to.
And so, the princess and the strategist started their idle chat.
“We changed the horse.”
“Yes, this is the advantage in stagecoaches… The horses of knights are tied to the individuals, and the military horses go through battle training, so they can’t be changed... But the horses of the stagecoach can be changed after reaching a relay station. It’s really convenient.”
“Who do the horses at the relay station belong to?”
“... This road is under the direct jurisdiction of the empire, and a transport ministry was formed. Transport ministry take charge of the streets, harbor and the bureaucracy. For counties, the stagecoaches are run by the territorial lords.”
“The place to change tired horses are the relay stations, which give rise to stagecoaches.”
“That sounds convenient, why don’t the military adopt such a method?”
“... It’s not feasible in the frontlines of the north. In the south, the army had their own transport network. It’s not possible if the units are too large, so it’s only used for emergencies.”
“Regis has been to the south before?”
“I only read it in a book.”
“Ah, right, how Regis-like.”
The coach advanced slowly.
At this pace, they should reach the next relay station right on time.
The royal princess’ tone became stricter.
“Regis, after we have accomplished our goal for this trip, I have something I need to do.”
“Order changing the seats of all stagecoach to be softer.”
As she spoke, the royal princess adjusted her sitting position.
On the 6th morning after Altina’s group left fort Volks--
After traveling 100Li (444km) over rugged roads, Altina’s group was getting tired.
Regis looked at Altina who was seated beside him.
Altina was resting her head on Clarisse’s shoulder and sleeping soundly, Clarisse would be really tired if he leave her be.
“... Are you fine, Clarisse?”
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“... We will reach the capital soon, so please bear with it.”
Suddenly, soldiers appeared ahead and the streets turned rowdy.
“The cavalry is coming!!”
Hearing this, a tense air hung within the coach.
Abidal Evra became alert instantly.
“Your highness… please adjust your dressing.”
After saying that, Regis poked his head out of the window.
On the wide streets, cavalries were drawing near with the rising dust.
While Clarisse wiped Altina's mouth with her handkerchief, Altina asked something while mumbling.
“Hmmm… who is it?!”
Whose units were these, Regis wondered as he shifted his gaze to the unit’s flag.
“... Red background, golden lion, sun… ah… this is the empire’s first army, the troops under the 2nd prince, general Latreille.”
Hearing this, the tension in the coach reached the boiling point.
Everyone made their resolve to die.
Altina and Latreille were political enemies, which was confirmed when the unreasonable orders to capture fort Volks was passed down.
Was Altina’s ambition to aim for the throne as the 4th princess exposed…
Compared to the crown prince Auguste who gave up his administrative duties due to ill health and the 3rd prince Bastian who was still schooling, Altina shouldn’t attract too much attention in the capital.
Looking at the soldiers with murderous intent before them, Regis used a steady tone and said:
“...Everyone calm down, this is the open street at noon. We will reach the capital just by climbing over that hill, so there is lots of traffic here… No matter what, at such a place, Latreille who already displayed his flag won’t draw his sword on us. To me, I think they are testing our etiquette.”
I see, Abidal Evra was impressed as he thought about it.
“A sudden attack luring us to lose our composure. Attempting to make us disregard our etiquette, forcing the popularity of the royal princess to fall. Is that their goal?”
“If we perform some weird actions, we might allow our adversary to get their way.”
“Eh, we were soldiers from the capital in the past, we won’t do anything that would make the royal princess lose face.”
“Yes, I’m counting on you… I will do my best to prevent that from happening too.”
Regis said with the most serene tone possible.
The young Eric still had an uneasy expression while Clarisse was calm as usual.
Altina pinched her dress tightly.
“Maybe, I am not good in dealing with this. In the past, Latreille reminded me to watch how I act.”
“Was this the reason you were not good with handling prince Latreille?”
“That guy is too sensitive, he even got mad when I didn’t place my fork and knife properly okay!?”
“... I was warned by my sister about that too… Now should be fine, there is no need to be so careful in my behaviour now.”
“That would be great.”
The stagecoach climbed the hill slowly.
Abidal Evra had a face of resolve as he stopped and opened the door leading outside.
Regis came out from the coach and the gaze of the empire first army fell on him.
Before Regis was a group of well equipped and tough soldiers.
Normally, the troops standing in the first row are taller, and the weaker soldiers could be seen behind them. But that wasn’t so here, all the soldiers were top notch in built, appearance and equipment, a confident bunch.
“How is it?”
Altina who alighted next asked.
“... The first army have 3 band of 1000 cavalry, a total of 3000. Adding in the 7000 infantry, they would number 10,000. From their appearance, this should be the ‘white wolf band’.”
“So it’s 11 against 1000, 1 against roughly 90?”
“... We won’t be fighting right? And you counted me in? I couldn’t do it.”
“I counted myself twice.”
A man wearing red armor on a white horse came over from the band of knights.
He had magnificent golden hair.
His face gave a feeling of beauty and sharpness.
He also had crimson eyes that seemed to be burning.
The sword on his waist was the founding emperor’s sword ‘Arme Victoire Volonte’, with jewels encrusted on the hilt. The grip had also been dyed red.
He was the 2nd prince of the Belgarian empire, Allen Deux Latreille de Belgaria.
He rode to the group alone.
And some distance away, he alighted from his horse.
Altina’s body turned stiff, she might have drawn her sword if she had one.
Regis couldn’t do anything about it, same for the others in the group. They didn’t think the prince would come over by himself.
The clanking of the armor drew closer step by step.
Altina gritted her teeth, not allowing that man to see her fear.
Gradually, both parties were close enough to shake hands.
Latreille spread his arms, hugged Altina and said:
“I am really sorry… sister.”
The hugged Altina was stiff and couldn’t say anything.
Latreille continued in a sincere tone:
“It must have been hard on you, because your brother who controlled the entire military was incompetent., forgive me.”
“... Erm… Latreille?”
“When I heard that Argentina was taking a stagecoach to the capital, my heart ached. Was your life there so hard?”
“Huh? No, this is to be the same as the citizens--...”
“Ah, I have mountains of things to chat with you. But we should take care of our subordinates for now, hurry back to the capital and have a good rest.”
“To celebrate your victory, I had prepared a horse for you, Argentina.”
Latreille gestured with his eyes, and a soldier from the cavalry brought a horse over.
The brown fur was bright and neatly groomed. It had a beautiful appearance, long golden tail and the tip of its hooves were white.
A beautiful military horse.
Latreille pulled the reins over, gesturing for Altina to give it a try.
“Oh, it has a good temperament. A great horse that gets along with you.”
“Ah, yes, it is really good.”
Regis who was watching this scene was stunned.
“... I get it.”
-- A soft approach, and he had a good idea of Altina’s personality, so he was confident of this tactic. What a capable brother.
He seemed to know that no matter how precious the jewelry he could gift her, it wouldn’t move Altina.
Regis searched through the bookshelves in his mind, trying to find the best solution for this from all the books he had read.
“Ugh, what should I--”
“Hmm, if you want to travel with your strategist, you could either ride a horse or take a carriage, it’s great to have company right?”
Latreille’s gaze shifted over this side.
-- I didn’t imagine that the commander in chief who was also a royalty, prince Latreille will speak up for me, a 5th grade admin officer. Regis was really surprised.
Regis felt he had totally miscalculated, for the adversary to be aware of him.
Such a scenario doesn’t exist in the bookshelves in his mind.
Apart from nodding, Regis didn’t have any other choice.
“... I am very grateful.”
Eric and Abidal Evra had top grade military horse as their mounts.
Regis and Clarisse sat in an elegant carriage decorated with Emerald.
The luggage was stowed in a wagon.
Because they weren’t informed in advance, Regis and company apologized to the stagecoach driver and bid farewell to the stiff seats they used for 6 days.
-- they were set up.
They were going along at Latreille’s pace.
Regis recalled the words he said to Altina.
“I am a mere academic, if I get in a situation where I know nothing about, I can’t do anything.”
Eh, to think his words really came true.
Prince Latreille’s military and political capability were clear to see. Indeed, he has the ability to become the next emperor. What they were seeing was just the tip of the iceberg. So, what should we do?
The emerald carriage could seat 4, with 2 rows.
An orange haired soldier was seated in the back row.
His eyes had a gentle feel about it, he was about Latreille’s age.
From his uniform decorated in gold and silver, this man should be an aristocrat, and holding a high position.
After Regis opened the door, the man smiled and said:
“It must have been hard on you. Strategist Regis right, my name is Germain Laurentis de Beaumarchais, 1st class admin officer. Please call me Germain.”
“Ah… Thank you… My name is Regis Auric, 5th grade admin officer, may I know if I came to the wrong carriage?”
“No, this is the right one. On the short trip to the capital, please allow me to travel with you.”
Regis turned back to look at Clarisse.
If you ride a carriage seated next to a noble who was your political adversary, it would affect the quality of your rest.
But Clarisse didn’t change her expression as she said:
“Please don’t mind me, if the carriage doesn’t have a spot for me, I am fine with walking to the capital.”
“No way! If that really happens, I can’t imagine how the princess would punish me.”
“I would be lectured by prince Latreille too. Please, have the seat at the end.”
“... Alright, thanks for your kindness.”
On the invitation of Regis and Germain, Clarisse bowed and got up the carriage.
Clarisse sat in the inner seat while Regis took the seat by the door beside her.
Germain sat on the seat opposite them.
Normally, the maid Clarisse should be seated at the last row, while Germain takes the seat to the front.
Both Latreille’s attitude in welcoming Altina and the way Regis and the others were treated made Regis impressed by Latreille.
Germain smiled warmly and started chatting with Regis and Clarisse.
“I have wanted to meet Sir Regis for a long time.”
“... Erm, I am just a commoner and a 5th grade admin officer… So wouldn’t saying that be inappropriate?”
“Ahh, I misspoke. I am actually the 3rd son of a Marquis, my two excellent elder brothers are the ones liaising with others, so I have gotten used to this manner of speech.”
“Are your brothers doing well?”
“Yes, they are working in the west right now.”
Regis thought about the names of the commanders in the imperial army.
The garrison unit in the west is currently the 2nd army, the commander and vice commander are the brothers of the Beaumarchais Marquis clan.
So the 3rd son was working as the advisor for Latreille, Regis didn’t know that.
Germain smiled awkwardly.
“The Beaumarchais are a family of military lineage. I am not proficient with the sword and concentrated on studying books, I never thought I would ever be a soldier. But the prince thought highly of me while I was in military school, so I am working for him as an advisor right now.”
“Ah, I see.”
Regis thought the 3rd son of a Marquis family would be completely different from a commoner like him. But they had some similarities, so Regis felt he was a kindred spirit.
“I heard that Sir Regis is a great scholar.”
“Eh? No… nothing great to speak of, reading just happened to be my only hobby.”
“I can understand that. What books have you been reading?”
“It’s a shame, but I was too busy lately… I only read Yorgel’s ‘The Ponytail’s Next Door.”
Germain’s head tilted slightly.
“Hmm…? Is that an academic book?”
“Huh? Ah, no, this is just a fantasy novel.”
This was a love novel he bought when Regis was still in the capital. Back then, he was holding a carefree position, someone who wanted to learn a little of everything.
Germain laughed when he heard that.
“Huh? Hahaha! As expected of Sir Regis, even your jokes are extraordinary.”
“Advisors like us should use our intelligence to accomplish things for our lords. Comparatively, we have no time for such useless leisure.”
“‘I’ve always thought that those things should disappear.”
“... What did you say?”
“Isn’t that so? Those books are published to satisfy the lowly desires of others, they are the reason behind the drop in aesthetic quality of Belgaria. Shouldn’t these low class literature be burned?”
Germain said in a sincere tone.
He was probably serious, wanting to destroy these books for the nation.
When Regis thought about that, he rested his tightly clenched fist on his knees.
“... Who are the ones who decide which books are high or low class?”
“The ministry of justice of course. The empire had issued warrants of arrest of ‘suspected treason’ for those who authored books that criticized the empire. The band of knights are sent to arrest them.”
“... Are the values of those in the ministry of justice absolute? Taking into account the authority of the ministry of justice, plenty of books would not be allowed to be published.”
“That is to be expected! How could criticism against the country be right!”
“How stupid… What if this kingdom is progressing in the wrong direction, is it illegal to point out the right way? Sir Germain graduated from military school, haven’t you heard that ‘ignoring the suggestion of subordinates is the folly of the commanders’?.. Would everything in the empire be run by foolish commanders?”
“Ah, no, well, books related to politics and science wouldn’t be destroyed, just the books used for leisure.”
“... How would the criteria for the books be set? Have you thought about this question?... Putting that aside, even if a book was created for leisure, it is still for the hardworking citizens of the empire.”
“Even so, there are some who commit crimes because they read such books.”
“Then tell me, how many people have committed crimes because they read these books?”
Germain became silent.
Regis slowly unclenched his fist.
-- Not good.
He became agitated unknowingly.
If you consider Altina’s position, now should be the time to get on the good side of Latreille.
What should be done to maintain their own political stance while catering to the other party?
Something unexpected happened. Clarisse who was seated in the innermost position was the first to break the heavy silence.
Clarisse was expressionless as usual.
“... I don’t understand these complicated things… But since we are living in this world, we have to live our entire lives as humans. If we were to die someday… I wouldn’t regret my life if my heart is filled with the wonderful things of this world. That’s how I feel.”
After finishing, silence encompassed the carriage.
Regis stopped keeping up appearances.
He didn’t apologize to Germain for his earlier words too.
Germain smiled faintly.
“Oh, that was rude of me, to discuss such a complicated topic before a lady. Political and clan topics are taboo even in a party. Eh, I was acting like an uncivilized buffoon.”
“... No, I was ill mannered.”
The atmosphere in the carriage returned to normal and Germain shifted his gaze outside.
“We are almost at the capital.”
Regis looked at Clarisse and could see nostalgia from her eyes.
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