Editor: Darkdhaos, Jason, Ice Phantom, CEObrainz
On the 9th ——
Regis looked out the window.
The sun had risen to the top of the sky, and he could see the fort on the other side of the hill.
That was Fort Bonaire with its distinctive grey walls.
The tracks of hooves and carriages covered the green plains, and there were marks left by cannon fire everywhere. The signs of an intense battle could be seen easily.
But there were no bodies.
As it might lead to plague and disease, the horse carcasses and corpses would be buried swiftly after battle at the first available opportunity.
Soldiers would carry quite a bit of money on their person. Apart from the need to purchase things in the army, the amount of money on them would affect their very lives if they needed to run.
Hence, a lot of soldiers would scavenge the corpse of enemy soldiers for valuables. That might be despicable, but only the lowest ranking soldiers would need to take care of the bodies, so it was a valuable chance for them to earn additional income to pad their meagre salary.
But that was limited to the bodies of the enemy.
The possessions of their fallen allies would be sent back.
Taking the possessions from fallen allies was more serious a crime then robbing the living, and was a big taboo religiously.
Fort Bonaire was just a half day’s journey from the capital Versailles by foot and was the last line of defence for the the city.
However, the walls were already falling.
The gigantic gate of the fort was now a pile of rubble, as if a giant had smashed it with a hammer.
A large number of soldiers were clearing the debris by hand.
The fort was completed just recently, and the gate should have been made of very tough stones. It was hard to imagine that it had collapsed due to natural causes, but it wouldn’t have been destroyed to such an extent even if it took several direct artillery hits.
—— So what happened?
The Fourth Army made uneasy noises after witnessing this scene, and their marching speed slowed down.
Altina rode her favorite horse Karakara. Seeing the commotion, she tilted her head in confusion.
“Did something happen?”
“... The damage is terrible.”
Regis leaned out from the window of the carriage.
Altina came closer with her horse and asked,
“Hey, what do you think happened?”
“Hmm… I think it’s gunpowder, but how did they get such a large amount of it to the gate and detonate it? That’s the main concern here.”
“Latreille had it hard here too.”
“... Maybe it’s really lucky that Fort Bonaire didn’t fall.”
“Will it be fine for us to approach like this?”
“I have already dispatched scouts and contacted the other party. We can’t let our guard down, but I don’t think there is anything to fear.”
Altina nodded and spurred Karakara to the head of the formation.
After ordering the unit lagging behind to catch up, she reached Fort Bonaire.
The soldiers at the gate gathered stones into baskets, carrying them somewhere far away to dispose of. At the sight of the Fourth Army, the soldiers greeted them by waving their hands.
There were people waving flags too.
Lively army songs could be heard too.
The carriage Regis was riding in also entered Fort Bonaire. He turned to Clarisse, who was right next to him.
“Please wait in the carriage for a moment.”
“Understand, please be careful.”
She spoke in a gentle voice as she bid farewell to Regis.
After disembarking, Regis walked towards Altina.
She had already met with the commander of the fort.
He was a young knight.
“Your Highness, it is an honour to meet you!”
“Well, if it isn’t Coignieres. You seem lively.”
Altina smiled back.
The Seventh Army were the ones clearing the debris, with Coignieres as their leader.
He used to be stationed with the Beilschmidt Border Regiment in the past, but his attitude had changed completely, as if he was a different person.
His subordinates had stopped their work altogether, rejoicing in their reunion.
The cheers grew louder after Regis came near.
Coignieres saluted and said:
“Thank you for your hard work, Sir Regis!”
“Ehh? Ah, yes.”
Not expecting to receive such a gaze, Regis saluted in a hurry.
Coignieres was originally a Second Grade Combat Officer, but after taking on the role of commanding the Seventh Army when Lieutenant General Barguesonne was killed in action, he was most likely promoted. No matter what, Regis was certain his rank was subordinate to Coignieres’s.
The proper etiquette would be Regis saluting, and the other party returning the salute.
He could hear the soldiers of the Seventh Army cheering “Hooray for the Strategist Regis d’Auric!”
Regis was feeling light headed.
Just yesterday, he was filled with regret because of his failure in the succession struggles, it was a big contrast from the praises he was showered with today.
Regis stood stiffly in place ——
Suddenly, Altina smacked his back.
“What are you spacing out for? Give them a response!”
“Is there another Strategist Regis d’Auric aside from you?”
“No… But… I, didn’t do much…”
“Regis, you are really…”
Altina shrugged as she smiled wryly.
Coignieres smiled too.
“You are still the same, Sir Strategist. Admiral Bertram’s report has already spread throughout the Empire.”
“That’s right! Standing in for the wounded Admiral, the Strategist Regis d’Auric commanded the fleet and defeated the ‘Queen’s Navy’ of High Britannia, and even captured the enemy commander and the latest battleship!”
“... Erm, it’s thanks to the excellence of the Empire’s sailors, tactics that only appears in stories like diving into the sea at night was only possible because of their efforts.”
“Sinking the incredibly tough enemy battleship in a single explosion, is that true!?”
Coignieres had the face of a boy excited by a legend.
His subordinates asked excitedly.
Regis became frantic.
He couldn’t say that the report was a lie, and that did happen.
“... Yes… although our allied vessels were sunk too.”
“Ohhh! That is incredible!”
The cheers started spreading.
Regis had an inferiority complex, and would feel uneasy when he gets complimented. However, for soldiers who praise the accomplishments achieved in battle, it was impossible for them to understand this.
Coignieres used the chance and asked:
“I heard you used fantastical strategy to defeat the Mercenary King’s army of 10,000!”
“... The princess was the one who defeated the Mercenary King though?”
“You created fog! You can even do something like that!?”
“... Well, I did propose that… Ferdinand from the Pioneers took charge of execution, and it is thanks to all the ——”
Before Regis even finished, the Seventh Army grew rowdy again.
“He can create fog!?” “He is really a magician!” “Amazing!”
It was only natural for them to react like this.
Few people would study natural sciences in this era, and even if they understood the theory behind rainfall and the conditions for rainbows, they couldn’t use it to protect themselves in battle or hunt for game in the forest.
They couldn’t even grasp the idea that the fog was manmade.
And Regis used it in a real battle to neutralize the new model of rifles.
On top of that, the Seventh Army lost horribly to the High Britannia’s new model rifle in the battle of Lafressange recently.
Sounds of gasps became louder.
The more they praised him, the more uncomfortable Regis felt. He was not good with accepting compliments.
Regis changed the topic as if he was trying to escape from this situation.
“By the way… What happened to the gate, is this caused by a gunpowder explosion?”
“Ohh! You can tell!?”
“I don’t know how it was destroyed, but such a solid gate would not crumble by itself.”
“It is as you said, Sir Strategist. Actually ——“
Coignieres described the tactics of the enemy.
There were people hiding inside the barrels of gunpowder they thought they had captured. The people hiding inside even blew themselves up after being brought to the gate.
“... To think up of such a plan… The ones inside will definitely die if it works…”
The opposing strategist was known as Oswald, and there were intelligence reports saying he was the de facto commander.
Altina who heard the story together with Regis became furious.
“What kind of person is this!? He sends his soldiers to blow themselves up!”
“... That’s true.”
He didn’t speak up to avoid any misunderstandings as there were many soldiers around.
But in reality, Regis didn’t think Oswald’s tactics were that nasty.
Ordering a battalion to charge with the knowledge that they would suffer a certain number of casualties, or committing a small number of troops to a battle plan they had no chance of surviving —— Was it any different from these crimes?
The former was fine, and the latter was evil?
Kill one man, and you are a murderer, kill ten thousand men, and you are a hero?
Oswald’s actions wouldn’t be judged by a court of law.
But wartime actions could be pursued after the fact.
This would probably be added into the negotiation terms in some form after the war between the Belgaria Empire and High Britannia ends.
Or maybe the Empire will go on the counter offensive and invade them.
Latreille would be the one to judge this. Leaving the succession of the throne aside, he was still the Field Marshal in command of all forces.
Since the war has started, it would be up to him to decide when it ends.
“I was lightly injured in the earlier battle, so I was in the medical room deep inside the fort and escaped death. However, the commander of the Third Army, Lieutenant General Buxlow and the Sun Knights were…”
“Is that so…”
Regis closed his eyes in mourning.
To be honest, he couldn’t accept this.
If the enemy launched an assault, then ran away with their cannons and gunpowder left behind, one should consider the possibility of it being a trap, even more so if the opposing commander was known for being cunning.
If you bite onto something that was obviously a bait, that would be no different than the fishes in a pond.
Latreille achieved numerous victories and his capability as a commander was exemplary. But he was weak to such underhanded tricks, probably due to his personality being too frank.
Or maybe his subordinates acted on their own?
Regis didn’t think about things like —— If only I was there.
“I don’t know what their schemes are, but it is probably a trap”, if Regis gave such advice, he would only be mocked as a coward in the Empire.
He knew his proposals would not be accepted.
“Has Prince Latreille returned to the capital?”
“Yes, even though the High Britannia army left, there is still a chance they would go around the back and assault the capital.”
“Hmm… And reports on High Britannia’s movements?
“We are tracking them, but there aren’t any reports yet.”
To be safe, Regis asked about contacting the capital and the security of the region.
Altina asked at this moment.
“Regis, do we camp out here? Or move inside the fort?”
“Since only the Seventh Army are garrisoned here, there should be room to spare. We will enter via the south gate and bunk in the rooms there.”
Altina then left to convey the message to the troops.
They had not been able to sleep under a roof for a long while, so cheers of joy came from the soldiers.
Regis shifted his gaze to the debris.
“Was it Prince Latreille’s orders to clear the rubble?”
“Yes, because Fort Bonaire is a key defence of the capital, so we have to repair it as soon as possible. But with our current speed, it will take a month to clear the rubble. Will it be fine?”
“It’s true that if another nation aside from High Britannia forces invade deep inside Imperial territory, it would be dangerous. But it’s not very likely for them to reach the capital.
“Worried about something?”
“If High Britannia returns, only the Seventh Army would be here to fend them off. But after the defeat at Lafressange and the losses in the battle in this fort, we have less than ten thousand men left. Everyone’s exhausted too.”
“Ahh… If the High Britannia army shows up, then abandon the fort.”
“It is impossible to defend this fort in its current state. It will be the same for the enemy, so it’s fine to give it to them.”
“Ah, I see!”
“Even if they want to defend this place, they will surrender sooner or later because of a lack of supplies. The enemy would not make such a foolish choice, so you don’t need to worry about them coming back.”
“Indeed… It is as Sir Strategist says!”
Coignieres’ expression brightened up.
As he muttered softly:
“Sometimes, I wonder if we would have already defeated the High Britannians if Sir Strategist had been by Prince Latreille’s side...”
“Haha… How could that be…”
Regis shook his head.
After this, the Fourth Army entered Fort Bonaire.
The plains that served as the battlefield just recently were dyed red by the setting sun.
It was the colour of blood, adding an eery feeling to the beautiful sunset.
A group bearing the standards of the Empire appeared to the north of the fort.
The carriage drawn by two horses was surrounded on all sides by cavalry
It was an envoy from the capital.
The Imperial Seventh Army was responsible for the defence of Fort Bonaire, but the one with the highest rank here was Altina.
Normally, Altina would be the one to receive the envoy. There were people who would leave it to their subordinates, but Altina wasn’t such a person.
The presence of the Strategist Regis was also requested.
At that time, Regis was lying like a corpse on the bed of his assigned room, and got up because of the intense knocking on the door.
Following the lead of Coignieres’ subordinate, Regis entered the conference room.
From the wide room, the destroyed southern fort gate could be seen through the windows.
The windows were damaged too, probably because of the explosion.
Altina was already seated on a chair at the long table, but there weren’t any signs of the envoy.
Regis lowered his head.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“Thank you for coming Sir Regis, this way, please.”
Coignieres stood up and ushered him to the seat beside Altina.
This made Regis anxious.
After sitting down, Regis surveyed the room once more.
Clothes draped the walls in the traditional style of Imperial forts. It was a building for waging war, but they paid a lot of attention to the minor details in decoration, and they even painted the ceiling with a picture of God and His messengers.
Being passionate about war and art, that was the culture of this country.
From the innermost seat, the order of seating was Altina, Regis, Benjamin, Jestin and Coignieres.
These were the only people that were present.
“Where’s Sir Jerome?”
“He seemed to be tending to the horses.”
“He is really focused on such things.”
He probably thought that dealing with the envoy was a hassle, and that Regis will report the details to him after this anyway.
Before the conference began, Coignieres made idle chatter, saying ‘Field Marshall Latreille directed our forces from here, looking down at the enemy formations from this window’.
Regis asked again to confirm.
“... He observed the battlefield through this window?”
“Yes, he will discuss the enemy formation with his adjutant, First Grade Admin Officer, Germain.”
“... But the Prince was injured in an earlier battle, is his health okay?”
“Now that you mention it, he did summon the doctor to his room several times. But he stood at the very head of the formation when we were preparing to move out towards the end, so there shouldn’t be any problem.”
“Is that so.”
Regis was concerned when he met him earlier as he seemed a bit strange…
But there didn’t seem to be any problem with his health.
The voice of a soldier came from the other side of the room.
“The envoy from the capital is requesting an audience!”
After confirming with Altina with his eyes, Coignieres said:
The door opened.
The one who entered with four lightly armoured cavalry was a woman in long robes who did a curtsey.
Her hair reached her waist, with long eyelashes, a beauty with pretty features.
She gave others the impression of sensibility.
She was about Regis’ age.
“Greetings, I am General Affairs Officer Fanrine Veronica de Tiraso Laverde from Ministry of Military Affairs.”
Regis heard that family name before.
Altina tilted her head.
“Tiraso Laverde? Are you Eleanor’s sister?”
“Yes, thank you for taking care of my elder sister earlier. I am honoured by the chance to greet you.”
She smiled elegantly.
It was a minute action, but it made it clear that she was a lady from an aristocratic clan.
“Then why are you working in the Ministry of Military Affairs, House Tiraso Laverde is both a Dukedom and a tycoon in the south correct?”
General Affairs Officers were considered soldiers, but they basically won’t head to the battlefield.
Most of their staff would work inside the Ministry of Military Affairs.
Deputies of high ranking officers and nobles who couldn’t even wield a sword would normally work there to earn the title of a soldier.
Their jobs were similar to Inspectors.
As it was a non combat role, they would employ women too, although that was rare…
Fanrine made it look like she was pondering.
“Why I joined the Ministry of Military Affairs? Well… I am different from my sister, I am not interested in business, and not good in numbers.”
“You need to deal with numbers in Ministry of Military Affairs too right!?”
“Ara, that’s true… Heehee.”
An unfathomable woman.
She didn’t show any signs of fear in front of the Altina who was a Princess and the commander of the Fourth Army. She also rivaled her sister in a way.
Regis pulled the topic back on track.
“I thought General Affairs Officers won’t leave the Ministry of Military Affairs building… Why did you come all the way to a battlefield?”
“Because I have pressing matters. Firstly, this…”
She handed a letter to Altina.
It was wax sealed with the stamp of Ministry of Military Affairs.
Altina opened it.
An order from the Ministry of Military Affairs.
—— Varden Grand Duchy is mustering their forces from all of Germania, there is a possibility they will attack Fort Volks again. The Fourth Army is to head for Fort Volks and prepare the defences against an invasion.
Altina kicked her chair away and stood up.
“Isn’t this a grave matter!?”
Benjamin and Jansen’s expression turned stiff too.
Fanrine Veronica was shocked too. The messengers often weren’t told of the contents of their letters, even more so for General Affairs Officers who weren’t messengers.
“... Can I take a look?”
Regis pulled the letter to him from the side and read.
This was usually a rude behavior, but Altina didn’t mind so there wasn’t any issue. Regis couldn’t give any advice as the strategist without knowing the details.
The letter mentioned all sorts of information.
He browsed through the letter.
“Hmm… I see… there are reports from the spies we sent to the Germanian Federation too.”
Regis took some actions to set up his own intelligence network, but he was lacking in manpower and fundings.
Altina swung her arm.
“Now is not the time to take it easily, Regis!”
“It’s fine, there is a possibility of an attack, but it is still in the preparation stage. Our troops are exhausted too, it would be for the best if we can set off the day after tomorrow. Please take a seat for now, Princess.”
Altina pulled back the chair she kicked away and sat down.
“... Hmm, there is another piece of information… Regarding the east.”
Coignieres leaned forth.
Regis handed the letter to Coignieres as he read out the part in question.
“Relations with Estaburg that borders us to the east are expected to deteriorate, so the Seventh Army is to standby against threats from the east —— That’s the gist of it.”
“Dividing the capital’s defense force? They are certain that the High Britannia army will definitely retreat?”
Coignieres was troubled.
“It says that the High Britannia army is headed north towards the Germania Federation. Although it is still in Imperial territory… Well, the First Army would be enough to deal with them —— That’s probably what the Ministry of Military Affairs thinks.”
“Is it really okay? The north is under the jurisdiction of the Third Army, but Lieutenant General Buxlow died in battle and the Sun Knights are lost, there is a need to regroup.”
“... Indeed, the northern defences are really weak.”
Because the Second and Third Army took heavy losses in the battle with High Britannia, it led to a huge gap in the frontlines.
There were reserves too, but their deployment was ineffective and problematic.
Coignieres read the letter again.
“Hmm… Why do they think the relations with Estaburg are expected to deteriorate? We fought with that nation for many years, but didn’t the Emperor take in a concubine from them as proof of amiable relations?”
From the perspective of the Belgaria Empire, Estaburg was just a small Kingdom. However, they had strong expansionist ideals, and was taking territory from neighbouring countries to strengthen their forces.
But the King of Estaburg was already fifty, and such a trend was weakening.
For the Belgaria Empire, considering the increasing tense relation they had with Germania and High Britannia, they didn’t want to commit too much forces to the east either.
As a result, the two nations formed an alliance, and the Belgarian Emperor took Princess Johaprecia Octovia as his concubine.
But the Ministry of Military Affairs was expecting relations between the nations to deteriorate, and even drew the forces defending the capital to defend against them.
Regis was baffled too.
“... Even if the Emperor passed away, it had just been half a year since our alliance, there is no reason to declare war. And High Britannia is retreating now… why are they expecting relations to deteriorate?”
Regis had a few ideas in mind.
But it would be faster to ask someone who knew, so he turned his eyes to Fanrine.
“... Can you tell us the reason why relations with the Kingdom of Estaburg is breaking down?”
She hesitated for a moment, but still answered.
“That’s because… Imperial Consort Johaprecia has died.”
Regis stood up in surprise.
Altina was dumbstruck and Coignieres opened his eyes wide.
“Grieving over the death of the Emperor, she killed herself to be with him.”
Regis uttered unconsciously.
It’s hard to accept.
The passing of the Emperor meant Johaprecia would lose her standings in the court, but she would still be able to live a luxurious life, and had no reason to commit suicide.
Altina frowned too.
“Grieving over the death of the Emperor, she killed herself to be with him? That woman doesn’t have that sort of personality.”
She put it in a rather mean way.
But Regis agreed with her.
Even just looking from afar during the Founding Day banquet, her demeanour didn’t seem to be like someone who would follow the Emperor in death.
Even though it was possible that her actions and her thinking were completely different, the dissonance was too great.
Regis asked Fanrine:
“Do you know how Consort Johaprecia committed suicide?”
“Although it is not appropriate for me to say this… she stabbed her own chest with a fruit knife.”
Altina couldn’t accept it too.
“Isn’t that strange? They say that father died of old age, but he was really lively when I last saw him though? And he ate lots of meat too.”
“... Queer indeed.”
“It’s obviously suspicious.”
Benjamin said after hearing all this.
“I might be overthinking… but is everyone here suspecting Prince Latreille?”
“We didn’t really…”
Regis wanted to conceal it, but Altina said directly:
“No matter how you think about it, it’s suspicious!”
Benjamin shook his head.
“I believe in His Highness, he is always thinking about the Empire’s future, and would never do something so terrible for his own greed.”
“I can’t believe him though. When I asked if he poisoned Auguste, he didn’t give a clear denial.”
“It seems Latreille didn’t wish for the case with Auguste to happen, and it’s possible that he didn’t do it… But there are no doubts in the courts about his will to be Emperor, and is aiming for the right opportunity from the shadows like a vicious snake.
She said that in a tone that was more regretful than angry.
Benjamin started perspiring.
“But His Highness wouldn’t do that for his own interest…”
It was true that Latreille wasn’t someone who would prioritize personal gains, and had the courage and responsibility to brave through dangers for the sake of the Empire, a real commander in spirit and soul.
But that was why Regis felt is was even more suspicious.
“... This might be the result after he considered what was the best for the Empire.”
Latreille was worried about the future of the Empire and killed the Emperor —— Such an idea was too disrespectful, and Regis didn’t state it out loud.
“That guy does worry for the Empire in his own way… and will become reckless for the sake of becoming Emperor. Sir Benjamin, do you remember?”
“What do you mean?”
“You captured a silver haired maid from Felicia’s family home.”
“Ugh!? T-That is…!!”
The First Prince Auguste died because of poison, and his sister Felicia acted on her mother's order------- The order of the Second Imperial Consort was for Felicia to dress like her elder brother and live her life as Auguste.
And Felicia’s stand in was a silver haired maid who looked like Felicia living in a mansion in Trouin Dukedom, pretending to be sick.
That was about a year ago.
After that, on Founding Day, as a means to push Auguste (Felicia) to the brink, Latreille wanted to bring that maid to the banquet directly to expose their schemes.
And the one who barged into the Trouin mansion to take that maid away was Benjamin who commanded the Second Army.
“There’s nothing more to say about that incident now. But Latreille would do such a thing to become Emperor, that’s why I am doubtful.”
Benjamin couldn’t answer.
It was fine for Altina to talk about this as a royal, but if Benjamin replied in a similar tone, he would be charged with Lèse-majesté.
Fanrine looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.
Regis got back on topic.
“Anyway, no matter what we think, Prince Latreille would be on guard. He should understand that he would be under a lot of suspicion because of the circumstances. As for the Consort, Johaprecia, even though she didn’t look like someone who would commit suicide, there are all sorts of people in this world. It is impossible for others to fully understand, so we can’t be certain about this.”
“There are some parts I am concerned about, but the intelligence we have right now is nothing more than rumours. Let’s not doubt Prince Latreille because of baseless suspicions, let’s take care of our unit first.”
They finally ended the talk that had strayed away from the main topic.
The incident of Johaprecia committing suicide was filled with suspect points, but there was nothing he could do about it.
—— I already took measures, but it wasn’t enough.
He had chosen a few soldiers that could carry out undercover work, and despatched them to the capital to collect intelligence.
But they were not professionals after all, so they couldn’t handle this emergency and achieve any results. They didn’t relay any effective intelligence to him, and it was the first time Regis heard the news about Consort Johaprecia.
The intelligence agents belonged to the Ministry of Military Affairs, which meant they worked for Latreille.
Grand nobles would have their own intelligence network.
It would be really difficult to set up an intelligence network in the capital if he only starts now.
—— Was I a step behind again?
It was difficult.
He already knew that, but he couldn’t rely on choosing the best methods available to him based on the circumstances. He couldn’t wait for things to happen and then react to it like he had been doing all this while. He needed to take the initiative.
There was a need to be a little more reckless.
The sound of knocking came from the door.
The maid Clarisse entered and bowed deeply.
She was acting like a different person as usual. She would be emotionless when others were around, and would speak in a monotone.
“It is already time for dinner, would everyone like to dine now?”
“Ahh, it’s that late already. Just send it here. Please join us, Officer Fanrine.”
“Ara! Thank you, I am deeply honoured!”
Fanrine curtsied gracefully.
Clarisse left the conference room.
After that, a large amount of dishes were sent in.
Ham, sausage, potatoes and fried cabbages were laid on the table, along with honey, warm soup and soft bread.
They received food resupply at the fort, so their dinner was more sumptuous than usual.
With the table full, Regis laid out his maps on the wall.
It was a map of Fort Volks and a map of Estaburg to the east.
“Well… Compared to the Belgaria Empire, the Kingdom of Estaburg is a small nation, but they have a strong presence in the east. Their plan should be to let Consort Johaprecia give birth to a baby boy with red hair and eyes, then place him onto the throne as the next Emperor… in an ambitious attempt to control the Empire.”
This wasn’t anything special. The consort who was taken in like a hostage giving birth to a child that becomes Emperor, and then providing the home nation of the consort with various advantages. This had happened several times in the long history of the Empire.
Regis shifted the topic to the other map.
“Fort Volks had the reputation for being impregnable for the longest time, and wouldn’t fall easily now. There are 2000 men garrisoned in the fort, and 13,000 men in the Fourth Army, making a total of 15,000… a bit too many.”
With confirmation that the High Britannians were gone, the capital was no longer under threat. The noble army that was called upon to participate would return to their original unit, but they numbered less than a thousand and would not affect the combat potential too much.
“It would be great if Fort Volks has more soldiers, but it would be troubling if the other fronts are short on manpower.”
“It is as you said, and there is the problem of budget… So, let’s talk about the east again…”
Altina and Benjamin started digging into their dinner. Steam came out of the potato and meat, spreading their fragrance throughout the room.
Fanrine was invited to dine too.
When he heard Regis mention the place he would be deployed to, Coignieres stopped eating and listened with a serious expression.
“The terrain here is uneven, and with the wide forest, it would be difficult to deploy cavalry. The enemy is proficient in hiding in the forest and firing their bows, it would be difficult to handle. The strength of the Empire is the deployment of our forces on a large scale and overwhelming the enemy, but Estaburg tactics revolved around surprise attacks in small groups.”
Coignieres was impressed and said.
“Have you been assigned to the east before, Sir Strategist?”
“No, I only read the reports available in the capital, do correct me if I made any mistakes.”
“There’s nothing wrong, but since that’s not the place you were assigned to, why did you read the reports about that area?”
“Eh? Because I had the permission to do so, I had read everything a commoner non-commissioned officer was permitted to read.”
“I-Is that so!? But why!?”
Coignieres was surprised.
Regis scratched his head.
“No, leaving my matters aside for now… I think there are 5,000 men garrisoned in the east right? What about the composition?”
“Your numbers are right. Most of them are rookies and old men, it’s difficult to send them on a long expedition.”
“They’re not ready for battle.”
“And the Seventh Army?”
Coignieres took out a folded paper from his waist pocket.
“Hmm… Original strength is 21,000, became 10,000 after the battle of Lafressange, and is now 8,000 after the defensive battle in Fort Bonaire.”
“The defensive battle…?”
“Both the casualty and those who fell ill increased…”
“Because the war dragged on.”
“The fatigue and injuries from the consecutive battles played a part… But there is also the issue of supplies. The amount delivered was less than what was promised, and the food sent were rotten.”
“Because the Ministry of Military Affairs didn’t send enough, we had to purchase from the towns nearby…”
Coignieres showed a pained expression…
He looked really troubled.
Altina became worried.
“Our unit is fine right? Why?”
“There were many instances of supplies sent by the Ministry of Military Affairs being embezzled along the way, so we sent troops to the source of the supplies, confirming the quantity day and night, ensuring that nothing goes missing along the way.”
“You did that!?”
Not just Altina, Coignieres and Benjamin were shocked too.
It was something written in books so it wasn’t anything rare, but they didn’t seem to know.
Coignieres was just a knight earlier, and was only promoted to command because his superior fell in battle.
While Benjamin’s army was mainly tasked with the defence of the capital, and wouldn’t go on long campaigns.
Even though it was a war with the survival of the Empire on the line, there were still morons who would embezzle the supplies. This was probably beyond their imagination.
Regis said with a sigh:
“The greed of an individual leading to the loss of many lives… The cause of these foolish crimes isn’t so much the lack of morality, but having weak imagination. Running short of supplies would result in the troops on the frontline starving and falling ill, leading to the collapse of the frontline and the destruction of the Empire. Those who stole the supplies won’t think about all that, and commit the crime from the shallow thinking that ‘it would be fine since no one is watching’, which is regrettable…”
Coignieres started groaning.
People were especially lacking in their imagination when there were dire consequences.
Everyone knew that murdering for the sake of money was a serious crime, and only the most hardcore of criminals would do that.
But people couldn’t fathom that embezzling the supplies was a serious crime that might lead to thousands of people starving to death.
Cutting corners on construction materials and choosing the person in charge based on personal preference, such indirect actions were the same.
The ignorant ones who lack imagination were scarier than the most hardcore of criminals sometimes.
Regis got back on topic:
“... Before the war with High Britannia, the eastern front lines had about 26,000 men. The Seventh Army are 13,000 strong right now, even if they make up for it by changing the way they fight, there will be a limit to its effectiveness.”
“We already requested reinforcement from the Ministry of Military Affairs…”
“All of our units suffered heavy losses in this war, it would be hard to get replacements immediately, so I propose… How about letting a part of the Fourth Army support the Seventh Army? I have yet to check the details, but we can pull out 6,000 men…”
“That would be wonderful!”
Coignieres stood up agitatedly.
Regis looked towards Benjamin.
“I would like the former Second Army to be the core of the Fourth Army splinter unit they’re sent to support the eastern front. Of course, there would be some former Beilschmidt Border Regiment officers going as well…”
“It’s a fine arrangement.”
Right now, the former Beilschmidt Border Regiment and former Second Army soldiers still couldn’t coordinate in battle.
It would still take some time for them to integrate.
If the budget of the Seventh Army could share the load, they could avoid the problem of maintaining a large force.
Dispatching good officers along would help in their training, so the two groups could work better in concert the next time they met.
And Benjamin was a noble from the Latreille faction, it would be easier on him to support the Seventh Army instead of working alongside Altina.
To be honest, they probably prefered returning to Latreille in the capital, but they couldn’t ignore the order from the Ministry of Military Affairs.
Of course, it would be great if Regis could pull the soldiers of the Second Army to his side right now… But it wasn’t that easy to win over people.
If he was careless and appointed an inadequate commander, the troops would be resistant.
Anyway, they were running short on officers.
Experienced, popular, able to grasp orders accurately, capable of adapting in the ever changing battlefield, and most importantly —— loyalty.
There might be a day in the future where they have to oppose the new emperor Latreille, they would need soldiers loyal enough to follow Altina even if they were branded rebels.
Regis checked the map again.
“... We will decide on the details of the manpower allocation later. The troops are exhausted from the consecutive fights and expedition, so I propose we will rest for today and tomorrow, and move out the morning two days later.”
Coignieres who was already standing saluted.
“Thank you everyone for your help! We were saved by the Beilschmidt Border Regiment during the battle of Lafressange, I will never forget what you have done for us. Please contact us if you require anything in the future!”
Altina stood up too.
And extended her right hand.
“Thank you! I will look forward to it!”
They shook hands.
It wasn’t Regis’ intention, but an alliance with the Seventh Army was formed.
Lafressange then looked towards Regis’ way with a smile.
“If we encounter an enemy as strong as the High Britannians, please allow us to fight under the command of Sir Strategist.”
“No… I am not the commander, the Princess is the one in command.”
When Regis said that, Altina patted his shoulder.
“It’s fine! Regis devices all the plans in our unit, everyone knows that!”
“No, that is…”
He was happy to be relied on, but was it fine for the commander to be solely devoted to martial combat? Regis started worrying about her.
After their conversation ended, they would need to start the preparations to reorganize the army and head back to Fort Volks —— Fanrine who had been dining quietly at the end of the table raised her hand.
“Can I say something?”
“What is it?”
“I didn’t come here to just deliver the orders from the Ministry of Military Affairs… Can you read this?”
Fanrine said as she took out another letter.
And she was facing Regis.
“... Is it for me?”
“Yes, from the Ministry of Military Affairs.”
“For me… from the Ministry…?”
He had a bad feeling about this.
Orders for Regis Auric.
A summon from the Ministry of Military Affairs and the Ministry of Aristocracy.
And they want him to report immediately.
The tone on the letter was really strong.
Altina peeked from the side and started reading ——
She then banged the table.
“We are preparing to set off for Fort Volks right now! How can Regis answer this summon!”
In response to Altina’s outburst, Fanrine lowered her head in apology.
“I am sorry, he might not have received it, but the summon for Sir Auric was sent in February, and had been ignored for almost half a year.”
“Even if you say that, how many battlefields did you think we went to!?”
“You are right… we will need to discuss the compensation including his war merits. That’s why we need to complete his promotion to Third Grade Admin Officer and knighting ceremony. Are there any problems?”
“Is there a bigger problem then drawing the strategist away from the frontlines!?”
“Erm… I am just a General Affairs Officer conveying what War Administration Minister Beylard said: ‘I won’t acknowledge a Third Grade Admin Officer being the strategist for the Fourth Army’...”
“What do he mean by won’t acknowledge!? No matter what the ministers say, Regis protected the Empire! He thinks we can fight a war with rank epaulettes!?”
“Ughhh… My apologies.”
Fanrine backed away.
Regis started soothing Altina.
“... Don’t be mad, even if you tell her that…”
“But this is…!”
“I have yet to accept my nomination officially, so the Ministry still sees me as a Fifth Grade Admin Officer. It’s true that it would be hard to understand why drawing away a Fifth Grade Admin Officer would be an issue.”
Ignoring the facts for now, Regis could understand the Ministry perspective.
Fanrine nodded eagerly.
“Soldiers have the obligation to obey the orders of the Ministry of Military Affairs, and the Ministry of Aristocracy had earlier requested for the presence of Sir Auric… They are questioning why he has yet to respond…”
“Well, like I said, it wasn’t the time to do all that…”
Regis sighed in resignation.
He already submitted the reports, but they didn’t acknowledge the exceptions.
“Sorry, because the Ministry of Aristocracy raised a strong protest… ‘Can’t the Ministry of Military Affairs monitor the movement of their soldiers?’, ‘Is he looking down on the aristocratic system?’, ‘Is he a democrat?’ they even asked question like this, and are visiting every week.”
“Ahh, I see… becoming a cavalier is something like the goal of a lifetime for commoners, and normal people will put aside everything and rush to them. Being ignored for months would be a slap on the face to them.”
“The summons of the Ministry of Military Affairs was also ignored, this is literally disobeying orders.”
“I heard that the message sent to the borders didn’t arrive. So they won’t pursue the earlier summons, but on the other hand, they sent me this time. I have been ordered that I absolutely have to bring you back…”
“Sorry for the trouble…”
“No, I am happy that I get to meet Sir Auric. But your position will become worse if you don’t go… So, can you answer the summon from the Ministry of Military Affairs?”
Regis crossed his arms troublingly.
According to the intelligence report, there was a good chance there would be a battle in Fort Volks again.
Even though they had more soldiers, the coordination within the unit was lacking, and the more troops there are, the harder it would be to deploy them effectively.
—— Was it fine for him to leave the unit?
“Would the promotion and conferment of nobility be finished by a short trip to the capital and submitting a few forms? If that is so, it shouldn’t take long.”
“Unfortunately, the document processing in the Ministry of Aristocracy would need quite a bit of time. Even though it’s not hereditary, it is still the conferment of a title to a commoner. There will be a lot of things to remember, so it will be time consuming.”
“About how long?”
“From a week to a month.”
“That’s quite long…”
Work of the bureaucracy was the same as usual, the rigidness of their formalities were proportional to their inefficiency.
“It is the same for the Ministry of Military Affairs, aside from the promotion papers, there will be an exam on military regulations. What Third Grade and above need to know is different from Fourth Grade and below, it will take time to learn them.”
“Such a headache, I should have rejected the promotion and the title…”
“Please don’t joke about this!”
Fanrine opened her eyes wide.
A General Affairs Officer was dispatched because the summoned was ignored, they will think Regis was a rebel if he turn them down now.
In the end, a promotion was an order, not a reward. Just like a demotion, it wasn’t something you could reject.
“Well… it would be possible if I resign from the army…”
“Ara, I heard that my sister wanted to recruit you, you want to be a merchant?”
Altina slammed the table again.
“That won’t do!”
“I won’t be a merchant, Your Highness.”
What he was considering was resigning his army commission and traveling with the Fourth Army.
The former soldiers from Beilschmidt Border Regiment should be fine, they recognized Altina as their commander, and Jerome held sway over them.
They probably would listen to his proposed plans even if Regis resigns from the army.
But what about the new troops? It would be hard to earn their trust.
If his subordinates didn’t trust him, the plans would never work.
“Anyway, I won’t agree to that!”
Altina announced firmly as she shook her head.
Fanrine showed a troubled expression.
“Regis is in the middle of his unit’s assignment, it would be a great loss if he leaves now! I have read some military regulations too, the commanders have some say over the movement of their subordinates, and the Ministry have to recognize my protest!”
“Yes… But High Britannia have retreated, and the chance of a battle taking place during this period is low, so we think out summons are appropriate.”
Altina clenched her fists.
She seemed adamant in rejecting this.
“What a nonsensical and conceited bunch! What do the Ministry of Military Affairs people who have never been to the frontlines know!? Low chances of a battle!? Did they think the chances were high when High Britannia attacked!? The Ministry didn’t anticipate the attack of the enemy and underestimate the power of the new rifles and steamships, how many soldiers do they think died because of this!?”
Espionage was under the purview of the Ministry of Military Affairs.
If there was more intelligence about the new rifles, high speed steam ships and High Britannia’s mustering and mobilization of their army, Belgaria would have fought with a different strategy.
After seeing so many dead bodies, it couldn’t be helped if Altina didn’t trust the judgement of the Ministry of Military Affairs.
Bards might sing about Altina’s beauty, but she was just like a starving loup gris when she was angry.
Even veteran soldiers would be wary of her.
But Fanrine maintained her soft approach, and said in a soothing tone.
“For Sir Auric’s future, this is definitely not a bad thing.”
Altina was dumbstruck.
Regis didn’t think much about promotions and conferment of titles.
Now that Latreille had a decisive advantage, making up for his failure took priority.
The goal of making Altina Empress —— Was gradually becoming impossible.
What should he do to change the Empire? Regis had been trying to find a new path forward.
However, Altina probably thought that she didn’t have the right to deny Regis his promotion and title, so she slouched her shoulders and looked depressed.
“... That’s right… Regis accomplished so much after all, I am sorry.”
Regis scratched his head.
“Well, let’s calm down first and think it through.”
Altina nodded weakly.
Regis asked Fanrine.
“Officer Tiraso Laverde, can you give us some time to discuss this matter?”
“Fufu… To avoid confusing me and my sister Eleanor, just call me Fanrine, Sir Auric.”
“Is that so? Then call me Regis too.”
“Ara, it’s an honour, I will take you up on it. As for the time, I can’t wait too long, but a few days would be fine.”
“Thank you, I will give a reply tomorrow.”
Fanrine nodded with a warm smile.
“Understood, Sir Regis.”
Deep into the night, the desk assigned to Regis was filled with all sorts of documents, it even covered his bed.
The light from his lamp flickered.
A large quantity of documents were sent to him by a carriage, he felt impressed that they managed to send it in one trip.
He had basically finished dividing the soldiers going back to Fort Volks and those supporting the eastern front, and the finer details would be up to the officers on scene.
As for his personal problems, he had to consider them from all aspects.
In order to do so, Regis kept moving the quill in his hand.
“Hmm… So… This is the only way…”
Regis lifted the oil lamp, a high class equipment prepared by Altina. It had the shape of a tea pot, and could be moved by holding the brass handle.
He used candles in the past, but the oil lamp was several times brighter, which made administrative work much easier.
It was easier to walk along the corridors at night too.
Altina’s room was nearby, just at the end of the corridor.
The two guards on night sentry saluted.
Then said softly:
“... Sir Strategist, the Princess has retired for the night.”
“Ahh, it’s already that late?”
“Hmm… This is troubling… I have documents I have to finish by tomorrow morning, and need Her Highness to verify…”
The sentries looked at each other.
Together with Regis, the three of them looked troubled.
A metallic noise rung out.
It was the sound of a door unlocking.
The door to Altina’s room behind the sentries opened gradually.
Faint light shone through the gaps.
Regis couldn’t see anyone, but heard a voice:
“Ah, pardon me for disturbing at this hour.”
They didn’t make any noise loud enough to wake her, and from the light in her room, Altina probably hasn’t turned in yet.
She opened the door ajar, showed herself and said:
“If you think it is necessary, you can wake me at anytime. I am not an incompetent commander who will chase my strategist away because it is night.”
“... I think strategists who wake the commander up in the middle of the night are pretty incompetent.”
Fufu, Altina laughed.
“I will look forward to our sleep deprived conversation then.”
“.... Maybe we should do this tomorrow?”
“Haha… Pardon me for barging in.”
Regis nodded to the sentries and walked past them, and the sentries saluted with their back straight.
He grabbed the knob and opened the door.
And closed it after heading in.
Paintings adorn the walls of the large room, and the curtains had beautiful laces.
Altina wore white pyjamas under the candle light. Her silk cloth was decorated with small laces and ribbons..
Her body line could be vaguely seen under her clothes.
Regis backed away on reflex.
“Don’t make weird noises, the sentries will misunderstand when they hear that.”
The room was built and light noises could not be heard outside, but sound would still travel if they were too loud.
“Why… Why are you dressed like this…”
Regis covered his eyes with his hands, but he could still see through the gaps.
“I was about to sleep so it couldn’t be helped, or you want me to sleep in a corset? I would rather sleep in armour.”
“... You want me to step outside for a moment?”
“Is my dressing that important? Then turn around, I will change right now.”
“I am sorry, there isn’t much time too so let’s just stay like this. If you don’t mind.”
“I will lose if I mind!”
Altina put her hands on her hips proudly.
Although she said that, her cheeks were still a little red.
She feels embarrassed after all! — Regis thought, but didn’t say it out loud. He didn’t come to see Altina in her pyjamas or to discuss that.
“... About that thing earlier in the evening.”
“Right, how should we answer the ministry?”
“Let me ask first… What do you think we should do?”
“I can’t imagine Regis leaving the unit for a month. Even if there are no battles, I am worried about the unit breaking down.”
“There are mountains of problems after all…”
“Well, I think putting all the load on me isn’t feasible for the long term, but there isn’t any way to increase the number of admin officers in a short period of time or find someone to cover for me on so short a notice.”
“... Hmm, that’s true.”
To be frank, Regis very much wanted to hand it off to someone else if he could.
He barely managed to keep on top of things in Fort Sierck, and when they shifted their base to Fort Volks, he asked soldiers who were literate to help with the paperwork.
But after the formation of the Fourth Army and their numbers exceeded ten thousands, it exceeded the number they could handle.
There were admin officers in the Second Army too, but after their defeat by High Britannia, they either deserted or died in battle, only a few apprentice admin officers were left.
From the scale of the Fourth Army, they would need a thousand admin officers. If they don’t have a hundred officers, they couldn’t even complete the requisition for the basic necessities.
It was natural that Altina felt Regis was indispensable.
It was hard to say this.
But he had to.
Regis stared at her like this.
Her pupils were red under the glow of the orange light, and her vermillion fringe swayed gently.
She placed her hand on her chest and started fidgeting.
“Ehh? You are still concerned about my dressing…? Don’t stare like this…”
“Ah… No… Anyway, listen to me.”
Regis wavered. He wasn’t sure if this was the best way, but he was certain this wasn’t safe.
But if it works, he would reap huge rewards.
Ughh, he clenched his fists.
And looked into Altina’s eyes.
“I want to go to the capital by myself.”
Altina was dumbstruck.
It was followed by silence as if they had stopped breathing.
Her shoulders started to tremble.
“... Regis… Are you serious?”
“I am not good at joking and dislike lying.”
“A-Are you abandoning me… Abandoning this unit?”
“That’s not it.”
“... Because… I can’t be Empress anymore… So…”
“Wait, Altina… That’s not the reason. After all, I didn’t become a strategist to make you Empress.”
“You don’t trust me anymore!?”
She looked completely crestfallen.
Regis shook his head.
“We made a promise that day. I will always believe in you. However, we need to make practical decisions now.”
Altina stared at him with bated breathe.
Her crimson eyes turned misty.
A transparent droplet streaked across her cheek.
Regis turned stiff as if his heart was being gripped.
Altina rubbed her eyes.
She turned and pounced onto her bed.
She squatted down with her back to Regis and covered her head with a white sheet.
“Ugh… Ugh…… Uuu…”
“Are, are you crying?”
She was obviously sobbing.
During moments like these, the main characters in stories will lean on the bed, hug her shoulders and say some wonderful lines to stop her tears.
—— I can’t do it.
Regis was depressed.
He could only stand beside her.
In front of him, Altina was breathing loudly as she shook with a blanket over her.
A large moon could be seen outside the window.
Crossing the celestial river.
“... Altina… I… believe you can wipe the wars away from the Empire. Your wish would be fulfilled one day. The nearest path of doing so is becoming Emperor. I agree that this path is harder now, But I am not giving up.”
She grumbled with her back to Regis.
“You are lying…”
“... I hate lies. I might like stories that are made up though. Well, listen to me…”
But she must be listening.
“There are too many strange points behind the death of the Emperor and Consort Johaprecia. Prince Latreille might look suspicious, but being too suspicious gives the impression that there is something more to it. If it was a planned murder, there is no reason to implicit Consort Johaprecia, she will just be a widow after the passing of the Emperor, she would have no political influence. Estaburg might be upset that their plan failed, but if their daughter still lives, relations between the two nations won’t deteriorate to the point of war… It might be inappropriate to say this, but there is no meaning in murdering Consort Johaprecia.”
Altina didn’t react as expected.
Regis continued patiently.
“... Thinking about it this way, did the Emperor really die of old age, and Consort Johaprecia killed herself? Or was it an accident? Impossible, I can’t imagine an accident happening in the courts resulting in their death at the same time, and even if there was, they didn’t need to cover it up as suicide. Once you eliminate the impossible, what remains would be a ‘planned murder’.”
Altina held her breathe.
As expected, the speculation that her brother was the one that killed her father was a big shock to her. But even so, he couldn’t stop here as this concerned both Altina and his future.
“... Was the murderer’s motive the throne? Or other emotional reasons? No matter what, someone murdered the Emperor and Consort Johaprecia on the spur of the moment — Everything will make sense if that is the case, and that person had the power and authority to cover all this up.”
“Someone with the authority?”
Altina finally reacted.
But she kept her back towards him.
“... Covering up the murder of the Emperor and Consort into ‘dying of old age’ and suicide require immense power, and the only one who can do that right now is Prince Latreille.”
“So… that man… killed father?”
Her voice was trembling.
“The death of Johaprecia is strange indeed. Like you said, she isn’t the type who would commit suicide. And there isn’t any political necessity to do so. Someone killed her without a plan — and Prince Latreille is hiding that fact. There is no way of telling whether he did it or is covering up for the murderer.”
Altina turned back.
Marks of tears were still on her face.
Under the moonlight, that sight of her pained Regis — but it was beautiful at the same time.
The sheets slipped off her back.
Her unkempt hair covered her pale skin like blood flowing down.
“... Hmm… According to what you said, father was definitely murdered.”
Of course, his deduction might not be correct.
But it was very plausible.
“... Regicide is a serious crime punishable by death, even if it is committed by a royal. If it really was Prince Latreille, even if he succeeded the throne, he would be proclaimed a false Emperor and stripped of his succession rights.”
Altina lowered her legs from the bed.
Regis looked up.
He couldn’t see her expression clearly from the illumination of the moon outside the windows, but he caught a glimpse of the light in her misty eyes.
“... Latreille killed father… And I will kill my brother next?”
“What a terrifying topic…”
“This is necessary to change the Empire right?”
“I won’t deny it, but it is still in the realm of plausibility for now.”
“Is that so…”
Regis’ words made Altina lower her head.
Transparent droplets fell again.
Regis didn’t know how to stop her tears, his actions or words might make her cry some more, but even so —
“... In order to investigate the truth, I plan to go to the capital. And… Like I mentioned earlier, there is a chance Latreille might change his mind. If he is thinking of consolidating the frontlines, I think we can work together even if he is a false Emperor.”
“So I will become Latreille’s spouse?”
“Stop kidding, who would want that?”
“What if Latreille requests for that?”
“That would just lose him the commander with the most accomplishment in recent years. Even if the frontlines is consolidated, I don’t think he’s stupid enough to do something like that, so that assumption is pointless.”
“Hmm… Is that so?”
“If Prince Latreille becomes the villain, will Altina want to be his spouse?”
“If Regis doesn’t want it, I will reject him.”
“Ahh, I never considered or wished for that.”
Altina wiped the corner of her eyes with her fingertips.
She was no longer crying.
Regis listed all sorts of reasons.
“No matter how aligned our policies may be, becoming his spouse is too dangerous. There is the possibility of Prince Latreille changing his policies after the marriage. And there are probably people who deduced the same things I did, so Prince Latreille’s crimes might be exposed. The chances you will be treated as a co-conspirator in the murder would be very high.”
“Well, so… you object to the wedding because of political reasons. I knew it!”
When she makes such an expression, she would look younger than she actually was.
“... Sorry… to be honest, that’s just half the reason.”
“Hmm? And the other half?”
“It’s a very personal… emotion I don’t really understand. I don’t want Altina to become Prince Latreille’s spouse… Sorry for not being able to explain this clearly.”
Regis felt ashamed for this irrational behaviour.
Altina’s face reddened.
“M-Me too… Emotionally, I am appalled by the idea of becoming Latreille’s wife... I think my time spent talking to Regis like this is important to me. If I become someone else’s wife, I won’t be able to talk to you like this, right?”
“... You will leave the unit when you marry. Our relationship won’t be commander and strategist anymore.”
But even if we are a commander and a strategist, we should refrain from meeting in her bedroom, Regis thought.
Altina shook her head.
“I don’t want… to not be able to talk with Regis…”
She rubbed her eyes as tears were about to come out.
The edges of her eyes were red.
“... As long as you are a commander, I will continue to be a strategist. I will leave for a short time, but I will return in no time. I am just going to the capital to gather information. If Fort Volks is attacked, I will rush back even if I have to quit the army.”
She looked like she wanted to say something, but in the end, she just nodded.
Regis nodded too.
“I will be back in no time.”
“Alright, I will do my work properly even if Regis is not around. Hey, Regis is weak, so don’t do anything dangerous in the capital.”
“You don’t need to tell me, I know that very well.”
“Do you need an escort, if only Eric was here…”
“By the way, how is his injury, has he recovered yet? If not for Eric, I would be lying in a grave right now.”
“Belgaria would be in danger if that happened, so Eric is a hero who saved the Empire. After I go back to Fort Volks, I will relay his condition to you in a letter.”
“I will be counting on you… Ahh, that’s right, I will teach you some codes.”
“A countermeasure to keep the content encrypted if the letter is stolen.”
Regis started listing numbers on a paper as Altina listened happily.
“... Well then, I should go back to my room now, I will prepare the necessary documents by noon tomorrow.”
“Remember to hire some admin officers.”
“I will think of something after I go back to Fort Volks.”
“I will try to negotiate with the Ministry. Ahh, another reason for me to visit the capital.”
The two of them smiled wryly.
Regis then faced the door.
“Do take care of yourself.”
“No problem! I have been training and my body is tough. I have lots of companions and I am good at swordsmanship and horsemanship!”
“Regis doesn’t train, is weak, is alone in the capital, can’t use a sword or ride a horse.”
“Haha… I will be careful.”
“Well then, good night Altina.”
“See you in the morning, Regis.”
He turned his back to her——
As Regis reached for the door handle.
Altina hugged him from behind suddenly.
“I don’t want… I don’t want you to go…”
She held him tightly.
Regis could feel the warmth of her body.
And the beating of her heart.
Regis could feel his own heart beating so hard as if it was going to break.
“A… Al… Alti…?”
He could feel her strong presence through the thin pyjamas.
“Y-You… are you trying to ignore everything we discussed just now?”
“I understand. Regis is going to the capital because you need to, it is important to me and the Empire.”
“I give up…”
“Can you at least, stay here until tomorrow morning? If you are tired, we can sleep together on the bed.”
It’s harder for him to stay now!
Regis felt troubled.
“Wait wait wait! What are you saying all of a sudden!?”
“... Because… It feels that I won’t be able to see Regis again.”
“I plan to come back after at most a month, wouldn’t it be hard for me to return if you put it that way?”
“You will really come back?”
“That’s my plan… and I will send you letters”
“I-I will write too! I am not good at it, but I will work hard! Every day!”
“Every day? No… That is… difficult.”
“I won’t let you go if you don’t write.”
The arms hugging Regis started increasing its strength, and gradually went beyond that of a hug.
“Hurts, it hurts! Ah, I get it! I will write it like a report every day!”
“... Not reports.”
“A letter! Yes, letter! Every day!”
“It’s a promise!”
“But can you really write a letter every day?”
“I will work hard.”
“... I see, I will look forward to it.”
Altina lowered her hands
But she leaned onto Regis’ back just like this.
“Ughh… Regis…… Just… a bit longer…”
Altina started sobbing again.
Her body trembled as she tried to hold back her tears.
For the time being, Regis stood still in place.
Looking out the window, he could see the celestial river flowing across the night sky.