It was just before Naga and the rest started to prepare for a counter against the troops of Kasandora Kingdom that tried to retrieve the fort.
The royal capital of Kasandora Kingdom. Guiscard rushed into a certain bedroom located deep inside a royal palace.
“Guiscard, is that you?”
Inside the bright and spacious room, the king, who was stretching out on a large bed near a big window, raised up his body while smiling timidly, and welcomed his nephew, Guiscard.
“Just, what’s wrong with you, uncle?”
“The doctor told me not to exert myself, but well….”
“Honestly, please pull yourself together.”
There were moments when Guiscard would think it was better to let the king die like that and……. succeed his throne, but there was a fear the kingdom would fall into turmoil, and in the worst case, even crumble. That’s why, he was quite serious in telling Kasandora to pull himself together.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with my condition, so you don’t have to worry about me. More importantly….”
The voice of the king, which was normally faint, had become even more weak.
“Have you, heard about troops gathering in Granvista?”
“I happened to overhear that, but, I don’t know its details.”
“Is that so? This is a piece of information that has reached me. Looks like it will mean more work for you.”
“About those troops, what’s the purpose of them gathering?”
“Apparently…. they’re forming an army for the extermination of the witches. The messenger sent by Aiba told me that.”
(Again, it’s that man butting in?)
“Do you mean to say…. they came here to ask us for reinforcements?”
“Even if you say reinforcement, it’s just a little bit. That’s because they already seem to have as many as three to four thousand of units.”
“Three to four thousand?!”
Guiscard opened his eyes wide.
Ligaya, who stood on standby behind him, was also astonished.
“And not just that. It looks like that the elite troop of which the Old Church is proud of, the Brigade of 88, has been summoned as well.”
Both Guiscard and Ligaya jumped up in surprise. It wasn’t the sort of situation in which it was necessary to call the Brigade of 88. Not to mention, despite summoning the brigade, it was even more strange to assemble another three to four thousand units.
“I wonder what’s the meaning of that. Even though they can easily defeat the witches with that brigade alone, they still have gathered that many soldiers for their extermination group.”
“I have no knowledge regarding Aiba’s plan, but most likely, our kingdom won’t prosper from it.”
The king hung his head powerlessly while sitting on his bed.
“I’m at my limit. I’ve already run out of strength and willpower to overcome even our current problem. Guiscard….. I shall grant you the rights as my representative. Please take care of this kingdom from now on.”
Guiscard was barely able to suppress his joyful look. Shortly after that, he bowed down laudably.
“Yes. I will accept your offer and carry out my work with prudence.”
“If you can safely overcome this crisis, I shall officially retire and abdicate my throne to you.”
It looked like the king was serious about his words. It had been Guiscard’s dearest wish to become king since his childhood, however, while he was delighted, he also felt confused at the same time.
Thanks to the death of Guiscard’s father, who was the former king, his uncle succeeded the throne, which made him strongly believe that a throne isn’t something to be usurped, but something that should be taken back.
That being said, Guiscard didn’t intend to usurp the throne from his uncle, as it would do him no good if he was to rule while being branded as a usurper. Suppressing any revolt coming from residents and subordinates, and removing his opponents, it was clear to Guiscard: he would lack the leadership needed to guide the kingdom, were he to usurp.
(I don’t have such a capacity to lead.)
Therefore, Guiscard had been steadily gaining more achievements. He continued to do so. And then, he was blessed with good fortune when he assumed the top position of General from Geobalk, as a result of the latter’s army suffering a defeat. Even now, Guiscard wouldn’t cease to strive, so as to make his uncle acknowledge him. Such was his plan to obtain the throne.
Guiscard wouldn’t hesitate to reciprocate if the king decided to remove him, but, in the end, it was just, a reciprocation. He had no intention of raising a revolt against the king. Because of that, even if he decided to obtain the throne, Guiscard wouldn’t know what the future would hold for him. However, now that the Kingdom had fallen into crisis, it seemed the king was unable to endure the burden placed on his shoulders.
(It’s because of your untactfulness that you grew anxious and reached your limit. You could say you reap what you sow.)
Is what he thought. Guiscard didn’t restrain himself when he was told he would be granted the rights to represent the king. However, as one would expect, he couldn’t bring himself to hold out his hands and say things like ‘I’ll accept it gladly’. Instead, he would say ‘Please stay strong, uncle. Your power is still indispensable for us.’ under pretense of aiding Kasandora. Still, the king shook his head from side to side with a faint smile on his face.
“On one side, there are the witches, whereas, on other side, there’s the extermination army. An elderly man, like me, can no longer break this deadlock. What we need is young blood, like you.”
What Kasandora said sounded like a mere excuse of dodging his responsibility, but nevertheless, Guiscard didn’t feel like criticizing him for that.
“To begin with, the one who had raised this kingdom to its current large size was your father. It probably goes without saying you’re the right person to take over this kingdom.”
(That may be a fair argument, but still…)
“Anyway, we need to solve this crisis first.”
“That’s right. I shall pass on the information about you becoming my representative to the other officials. I’m relying on you, Guiscard.”
As soon as he said so, the king threw himself down on the bed powerlessly.
One of the royal court’s hired doctors that stood in the room’s corner stepped forward.
“His Majesty is exhausted right now, so I would advise……”
The doctor urged as if trying to interrupt the meeting. Sensing that it was the right time, Guiscard and Ligaya left the bedroom.
Guiscard, who had returned back to his office, tried to knead a future plan despite still being quite confused at the previous turn of events.
Without changing their garments covered in dust, Guiscard and Ligaya sat at a dining table.
Soon after they received wine and cups from a maid, Guiscard ordered her and the rest of his guards to withdraw.
Once Ligaya finished pouring the wine into Guiscard’s cup, the latter drank it empty in one go.
“Recently, it’s become quite hectic, hasn’t it?”
Guiscard, who emptied his cup, breathed a sigh.
“Or perhaps, should I say…….. congratulations on becoming the king’s representative?”
At Ligaya who said it with a slight hesitance and confusion, Guiscard replied as if snarling under his nose.
“I’m not sure if I should be happy about that, but well.”
“I, guess you are right. The timing couldn’t have been worse though.”
“Still, forming an army combined from the neighboring countries at the westmost peninsula isn’t something you could feel at ease about.”
Hearing Guiscard’s words, Ligaya put down his cup with a difficult expression.
“If they really planned to just exterminate the witches, then throwing in the Brigade of 88 would be more than enough. Indeed, the witches have become strong, but as expected, it doesn’t seem to be something the Brigade of 88 wouldn’t be able to cope with alone. Despite that, why did they go through the trouble of borrowing troops from neighboring countries?”
“That’s the real question. Not to mention, they’ve gathered a large number of them, which consist of up to four thousand.”
Guiscard furrowed his eyebrows, folded his arms, and pondered deeply about something.
Finally, he began to speak abruptly.
“We won’t hear any more details on that if we don’t ask again for a report, but, apart from that, it doesn’t seem we would reach a conclusion…. First, we’ll most likely have to inquire about Cardinal Aiba’s true intention.”
Ligaya furrowed his eyebrows a bit and asked.
“Do you think he will be straightforward in his confession?”
“Even if he isn’t, I’ll understand his reply to some degree. We will choose the smartest messenger we have here, who won’t just receive Aiba’s response, but also judge his attitude.”
Ligaya bowed down politely.
“Is there anything else you would wish to arrange promptly?”
“Just to make sure, we’ll be proceeding with preparations for holding the city. Continue to strengthen its defense, and replenish our provisions and army personnel. At the same time, we have to accomplish our plan of taking back Fort Ein.”
“I wonder if it will go as planned.”
“Now that the plan is in motion, it’s too late to stop it. If we do nothing, we’ll give Aiba more pretext to act.”
“Understood. I’ll be taking care of your orders, so please excuse me.”
Ligaya bowed down deeply, to the extent of touching the table with his forehead, and left the room. Once he had left, Guiscard became lost in deep thought.
(Upon calling the Brigade of 88, there’s no doubt that Aiba is serious about exterminating the witches, but, as one would expect, I can’t figure out why he would need to gather as many as four thousand units from neighboring countries.)
Combat groups, also known as ‘brigades’, which belonged to the Old church, were very well known for their valor. The Brigade of 88 was famed to be the strongest one among them all. Actually, rumor has it there were times where they would also emerge victorious against the witches, even to the extent of annihilating their clans.
(If an elite group, like the Brigade of 88, was to make its appearance, then there should be no need to assemble this many soldiers. Even a single brigade consisting of 500 people should probably be more than enough to help us in retrieving Fort Ein. Despite that, is there some sort of ulterior motive behind that number of troops? That’s right, for example,)
Isn’t Aiba’s plan of extermination just a front for them to attack Guiscard and the rest? Isn’t it because Kasandora Kingdom fell into disgrace by losing to the witches on the field and having their fort snatched away that Aiba isn’t willing to forgive them? Wouldn’t attacking Kasandora Kingdom be his way to increase the morale of the extermination army before a bloodbath with the witches?
Obviously, what Guiscard feared was a needless worry. While it’s true that Aiba could dispose of Kasandora Kingdom, he still hadn’t shown any tendency toward that idea. However, it was true that this kingdom would belong to Guiscard sooner or later, now that he had become its king’s representative. Such a future outlook made his predictions become sharp, or perhaps, better to say – oversensitive.
Feelings of fear and doubt started to grow inside Guiscard as he was momentarily trapped in his thoughts.
(Despite saying extermination, the fact that the neighboring countries agreed to send in a large number of troops is strange as well. That guy, Aiba, I wonder if he had promised to hand out our territories as a form of reward for those who would give a good account of themselves.)
It didn’t look like the Kingdom of Kasandora would be able to defend themselves, were they to be attacked by that many troops. What’s more, there was a notable group of five hundred within their troops, the famous Brigade of 88.
Not even the Kingdom of Kasandora, who was in deep distress after suffering two consecutive defeats against the witches, would become a match for them.
(By instigating us to retrieve Ein Fort, are they trying to capture the capital when we’re occupied by the witches? I won’t forgive such an act.)
After all, Guiscard was closer to assuming the throne, for which he had longed for, for so long. No, he felt he had to achieve that. And also, for the sake of his father’s unfulfilled wish, who died from an illness. Later, he had to strengthen the position of the Kasandora Kingdom on the westmost part of the peninsula. If possible, Guiscard wanted to grow the kingdom into a powerful one, capable of subjugating other countries. While he was holding the vision of making the kingdom his own, belief and prospects toward the bright future gushed inside Guiscard.
(I’m nothing like my uncle. I’ll be able to overcome this crisis. I shall overcome it and make this kingdom even greater.)
However, Guiscard’s concrete plan wasn’t just about that. Whenever he would think about the throne dangling in front of him, Guiscard felt like he could overcome any hurdle, no matter how troublesome it was.
(I won’t let my kingdom to be treaded on by Aiba and those robbers. I’ll protect this place at any cost, even if my enemy is to be the Brigade of 88.)
Before one could notice, a flame of a paranoid dwelled inside his eyes.
Guiscard’s sense of duty to protect his own country would be later recognized by both the witches and the extermination group.
(The only one to fear is the Brigade of 88. Apart from them, there’s no need for us to be afraid of that mish-mash of soldiers formed by other countries. Even if our mobilization power has dropped to 1500, as long we force the citizens to arm themselves for a siege, then our garrison should total out to 2000. In that case, even if 4000 of them attacks us, the city won’t fall that easily. What’s more, that mish-mash won’t be able to endure long fights. And finally, their camp seems to be fractioning, just like a comb with missing teeth. When the time comes, perhaps, it should be fine for us to ask for reinforcements from the New Church.)
Asking for assistance from the New Church was, so to speak, forbidden. There would be no turning back if they decided on that move. In the end, Kasandora Kingdom was placed in a situation in which it would either fall into someone else’s hand or be destroyed.
There was no way for Guiscard to be able to see that far into the future. The only thing that dominated his feelings right now was the thought of him wanting to protect the kingdom no matter what it takes. The kingdom which he would succeed.
(Well then, let’s leave that matter aside and first focus on taking back Fort Ein. Otherwise, nothing will begin. Still, the drop in our mobilization power…… is somehow a pain in the ass.)
On top of being unaware of Naga’s eccentric ideas, Guiscard, whose sense was common, was stuck between 2 enemies: the extermination group and the witches.
Afterwards, his trouble would give a rise to a new development, of which neither Aiba, Jeweljude, and of course, Naga, could predict.