Following the establishment of the Arabas Empire, war was declared upon the continent, and the Empire conquered not only the Saw Rock Fortress, but the rest of the eastern region as well.
The plan of the guild's masterminds, which include Jegal and his subordinates, had only just begun.
Dukeram, who'd conquered the Saw Rock Fortress with the 1st Corps, proceeded with the next phase of the plan.
Horseback riders exited the fortress's giant gates, and headed for nearby cities. They carried letters bearing Arabas the Third's name.
The contents of the letter were quite easy to understand.
Accept his terms and surrender. If they surrendered without incident, then they wouldn't be harmed. However, if they didn't surrender, then they would be forced to comply by force.
These letters were also sent to the central region's free cities. They used the Tower's long-range communication service to do this.
"How many of them will surrender?" Dukeram asked.
"There are eight free cities within the central region, excluding the meaningless small cities. At first, most of them probably won't surrender, fearful of what the others might think," Jegal replied.
"You have something in mind, right?"
Jegal grinned. "I managed to buy off the higher ups of ten free cities. If we gain their support and turn the opposing cities to ash, then at least twenty of them will join us. Then, the free cities will crumble like sand."
"Check again to make sure there are no problems."
"Ah, and the emperor's condition is worse than I expected. We can't let the emperor die too early."
Of course, Arabas the Third had to die eventually. But they would push that to the end of the war.
Arabas the Third's heirs would die during the war, and Dukeram would be given the title of emperor.
"Please don't worry. We're making sure that the emperor doesn't die too soon." Jegal's eyes gleamed.
"I have faith in you." Dukeram patted his shoulder.
They had spoken atop Saw Rock Fortress's highest spire.
* * *
Following the people's revolution and the collapse of the Altein Empire, the cities transformed the old empire into a collection of free cities.
Slavery and the nobility disappeared, and citizens voted on a mayor that would, for a fixed amount of time, rule over the city.
The dictatorship had disappeared, giving way to a democracy.
The free cities also formed a 'loose' alliance amongst themselves. It was called the Free City Alliance.
Once the Arabas Empire declared war, the continent's largest cities' representatives gathered in Altein.
"Hello, representatives. I am in charge of this meeting today. I am Altein's Minister of Defense, Akamun."
Normally, you'd give the man a round of applause as a form of respect, but he was only met with silence.
"Then let's begin. How shall we deal with the Arabas Empire, who have just declared war on us? Please give us your opinions."
"Opinions? That's unnecessary. We have to fight for our freedom!" Rapuly (Krampal's representative) struck the table and yelled.
He was over eighty years old, and was also the oldest representative here.
However, he didn't seem like an old man. His eyes showed passion that didn't match the countless wrinkles on his face.
Rapuly was one of the leaders of the people's revolution.
He was a revolutionist that fought for freedom! Plus, he had governed Krampal for more than 50 years.
It wasn't a dictatorship. The citizens kept voting for him of their own accord.
He had the best reputation of all the representatives, and had a powerful voice.
"It's only been 54 years since the fall of the Altein Empire. But now the Arabas Empire is trying to unite the continent? I can't allow anyone to threaten our freedom!" Rapuly said. His voice was passionate enough that it didn't seem like it came out of an eighty year old man!
Some of the representatives spoke in agreement.
However, not all of them agreed with his positive outlook.
"However... The Arabas Empire has a ton of soldiers. If you combine their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd corps, they have a total of 700,000 soldiers," Natale (Trium's representative) said.
Trium was in close proximity to Saw Rock Fortress. Thus, he could feel how powerful the Arabas Empire was.
"If we work together, then we can gather 1 million troops," Rapuly said.
"I know, but it'll take some time before we can gather that many troops..."
"My city will fall to the Arabas Empire by then."
"Yes, it will."
"We need a plan that's effective immediately!"
"Or you could gather your troops and send them to us!"
The representatives of the cities under threat said.
"But do we really have to fight them? How about we try negotiating with them first?" Kalduria's representative asked. His city lay far, far away from the Arabas Empire.
"War isn't our only option."
A few of them chimed in.
Rapuly forcefully slammed the table. "You negotiate when you're on even footing. If we negotiate with them now, we'll be forced to accept all of their unreasonable demands. So first, we need to gather enough troops to fight them! We can decide whether to fight or negotiate then!"
"..." Kalduria's representative kept his mouth shut.
However, he didn't seem to agree with Rapuly's viewpoint. He believed that Rapuly was being too aggressive.
More than 100 representatives were gathered here, so they couldn't easily come to any sort of conclusion.
Plus, the representatives that'd been bribed by the Arabas Empire did their best to block any sort of consensus from being reached.
In the end, the meeting went on for several days. That was the weakness of a democracy; it took a long time to reach a majority.
Then, they came across a problem.
Tap, tap, tap.
A man urgently rushed into the room, and whispered something into Natale's ear.
"Aah!" Natale suddenly stood up. The other representatives fixed their gaze on him.
"I-I'll have to excuse myself."
"What's the matter?" Rapuly asked.
"Trium has been surrounded by 300,000 troops!"
"They said they'd burn down the city if we don't surrender. I... No, we'll surrender to the Arabas Empire! You can do what you want."
Natale left before they could stop him.
Representatives of the cities near Trium looked uncomfortable, but ultimately stood up and left the conference room.
They heard word that six free cities, including Trium, had surrendered to the Arabas Empire.
However, they were no closer to an agreement. There were two factions in particular, the faction that wanted to fight and the faction that wanted to negotiate, that couldn't get along at all.
The officials that Jegal had paid off were also keeping them from reaching any sort of agreement.
At this rate, nothing would get accomplished.
"Hoo." Rapuly sighed.
'Freedom's something you have to fight for.'
He knew this better than anyone.
Negotiating for the good of all? Surrender for peace? That was all a load of horseshit.
They would become slaves if they surrendered to the Arabas Empire.
'It can't be helped!'
Ultimately, Rapuly made his decision, and used all of his political influence.
Rapuly's influence was tremendous. He would also use immortal tactics like threatening others or bribing them, and even instigating the citizens too.
He'd normally detest these methods. After all, they were the tactics of a corrupt politician. However, he couldn't argue with their effectiveness.
Rapuly won over more than half of the representatives, giving his faction the majority, and decided to go to war with the Arabas Empire.
They waved the Anti-Arabas flag, and created the Freedom Alliance.
However, more than ten free cities had already surrendered to the Arabas Empire.
The ten cities Jegal had paid off simultaneously showed their support for the Arabas Empire, and stated that they would support them with supplies and manpower.
Of course, their citizens vehemently opposed their elected officials' decision and tried to impeach them, but they were suppressed by the military.
Plus, the Church of Serena, the Church of the Sun (the desert region's local religion), the Church of Luak (God of Darkness), and four small churches joined their cause.
Finally, the Empire Guild tried to recruit players to their side too.
Jegal had a special squad called the Incitement Squad, which was responsible for stirring up the community.
"Join the Empire. We don't care about your past. Let's unite the continent together. The continent is vast, and there are so many NPCs for us to control! Our players will become nobles, and when the war is over, they'll gain so much more!"
The Incitement Squad bewitched the playerbase with the promise of player 'aristocracy'.
More people fell for these promises and joined the Empire than expected.
"It doesn't sound bad."
"It's better to join the winning side. Then we'll get at least a small piece of the pie."
"Yeah, this is our chance. If we do well in the war, then we can get even more."
Jegal smiled wickedly at the crowd of players gathering at the Arabas Palace.
'As expected, the public are so easy to manipulate.'
They were like livestock that wagged their tails at the person offering them food!
* * *
The Freedom Alliance dispatched several troops to Altein. They had actually managed to scrape up 1 million troops.
Moreover, most of the large guilds, including Breaker and Storm, and the small guilds joined the Freedom Alliance.
'Do you really think they'll share the profits with you? What a load of crap!'
They knew how power worked, so they weren't swayed by the promise of a player aristocracy.
Han Seol even refuted the logic behind the aristocracy.
"The player aristocracy is a load of crap. Arth has more than tens of millions of players. There's no feasible way to make all of these players into nobles. So when the Empire Guild unites the continent, only the 'pure-blooded' members will become nobles. Is that not true? Which means...! If you believe their lies and join the Empire Guild of your own accord, then you're signing yourself up for slavery. It's not too late! Join the Alliance and fight the Empire. Protect your freedom!"
However, people only believed what they wanted to believe.
No matter how correct Han Seol was, the players wouldn't be swayed; they could see nothing but the promise of profit. Thus, more players headed for the Arabas Palace than Altein.
There was also a group that declared their neutrality: the Steel Heart Guild!
It was one of the 4 great guilds, and was renowned for its skilled craftsmen.
"We'll remain neutral. We will provide weapons or armor to either side, so long as they pay us. And if we're attacked, then we'll join the opposite side!" Arthand yelled.
"Merchants don't discriminate!"
Wang Seo Rim's Geumsan Store was also a neutral party. They planned on selling supplies to both sides.
"We won't forgive anyone that messes with us!"
The Mage's Tower was like a hornet's nest; if you messed with this magical hornet's nest, you best be prepared to go through hell!
"Also, you cannot use our intercity transfer gates to transport a large amount of soldiers or supplies. If you do not comply with these rules, then you will become our enemy!"
The Tower ensured that they wouldn't get caught up in this war. Thus, they had prevented either side from using their intercity transfer gates for the war.
Lastly, most of the churches joined the Freedom Alliance. This included the Rakan Church, which was led by their young High Priest, Saru.
With this, everyone had chosen their sides.
The prologue of the war that would decide the fate of the continent had ended.Previous Chapter Next Chapter