Chapter 159: Happiness (2)

Even after failing to develop a firearm, Milton continued to try various ways without giving up, but all of it ended in failure.

‘All the other novels in the world easily made a gun or a tank…’

Milton was disappointed but there was nothing he could do. However, it wasn’t like there were no gains. Even if it wasn’t a modern weapon, the fact that the military power had to become stronger remained unchanged. That’s why the number of soldiers and knights had increased and the fortresses in the kingdom were all serviced and improved. The Destroy breed of horses was increased and a special archer unit was created in response to Trike’s petition. And while they weren’t firearms, the Lester Kingdom had produced a variety of weapons that would show a decent effect on the battlefield. However, none of these had been put to real use yet. It had all just finished developing and being deployed when the war began on the continent. Milton found that to be a pity.

“Tsk, why are there so many people who are crazy for war?”

“The emperor most likely wanted to lay a foundation for his authority. And… it’s said that the Valence Kingdom lobbied the Empire.”

“Ah, the Valence Kingdom, those fools…”

Milton laughed when the topic of the Valence Kingdom came up. When the shield, known as the Strabus Kingdom, collapsed, the countries that had been far away from the Republic found that distance to have decreased dramatically.

The Valence Kingdom in particular suffered the most as they found themselves sharing a border directly with the Republic. Of course, the Lester Kingdom and the Florence Principality also shared a border with the Republic, but the Valence Kingdom became the shield that was stopping the Republic from spreading South. At first, they were flustered, but some people began to see it as an opportunity. They believed they had the opportunity to step into the role that the Strabus Kingdom played in the past.

Previously, the Strabus Kingdom had been able to limitlessly increase its military strength on the grounds of suppressing the Republic’s expansion. With the help of all the aid they had received from neighboring countries, the Strabus Kingdom had been able to strengthen their military until they became a powerful country with the second strongest military on the continent.

Now that the Strabus Kingdom collapsed, the Valence Kingdom wanted to play that role. That’s why they wanted to use it as an opportunity to expand their national power by expanding their military power without reservations while getting aid from the neighboring countries. 

When the Valence Kingdom began making such moves, Milton mocked them in his heart.

[How optimistic. Do you really think that’ll happen, you idiots.]

It was exactly as Milton said. 

Valence Kingdom’s dream to become the second Strabus Kingdom never happened. First of all, the neighboring countries didn’t cooperate as much as the Valence Kingdom thought they would. The Strabus Kingdom had already collapsed. If even the mighty Strabus Kingdom couldn’t block the Republic, would the Valence Kingdom be able to just because the countries gathered their strength at the Valence Kingdom? In general, the other kingdoms were skeptical. 

There was another reason the Valence Kingdom’s plan was bound to fail — the existence of the Empire. In the past, even when the Strabus Kingdom was in its heyday, the Empire wasn’t on good terms with the Strabus Kingdom. The Strabus Kingdom’s influence and authority, which had been raised to keep the Republic in check, had been an eyesore to the Empire. At that time, the Valence Kingdom was in the middle and served as a buffer zone so the Strabus Kingdom hadn’t shared a border directly with the Empire. That had been the only reason the Empire had tolerated the Strabus Kingdom’s existence even when they found the Kingdom to be annoying.

But the Valence Kingdom? That country was a vassal country of the Empire and directly shared a border. If you’re going to raise a tiger, you should raise it in a mountain far away; it would be foolish and dangerous to raise it in your own backyard. There was no way the Empire was going to allow the Valence Kingdom to be reborn as the military powerhouse the kingdom dreamed of. Once the Valence Kingdom was sternly advised by the Andrews Empire, they immediately stopped seeking military cooperation from neighboring countries. 

While the Valence Kingdom was wasting time, Siegfried had been very busy. He decided that while it was too much to wage war right now, in preparation for future wars, he should shake the very root of the Valence Kingdom’s government — agitating the people and causing rebellions in the kingdom. This was one of the Republic’s specialties and it was unfolding in the Valence Kingdom. 

In the past, the Strabus Kingdom had prepared very well for such an action. They put in the effort to find the spies but also realized that it was important for the people to be satisfied and paid a lot of attention to it. The king had strictly governed the nobles so they could not overtax and exploit the people unjustly and the corrupt nobles were punished openly, giving the perception that the country was on the people’s side. This expertise came from the long years directing sharing a border with the Republic and confronting them. 

In other words, the Valence Kingdom didn’t have this experience. When a spy was sent from the Republic to start riots, the Valence Kingdom sent punitive forces to quickly subdue the riots. The actions taken so far were alright. It was the action afterward that caused their downfall. The punitive forces not only burnt the leaders of the riots, but everyone who participated in it, to death. Then, they impaled the corpse onto stakes and sent one to each province as a warning. It was meant to show the people how terribly rebellions would be quelled and to rule the people with fear.

However, that only poured oil into the flames. Controlling the people with fear may have an immediate effect, but that effect never lasts long. At the very least, the people must feel that the country is on their side in order for them to be patriotic. Even if there are punishments and individual freedoms were violated at times, the people must have a perception that the country would protect and not harm them. However, the ruthlessness of the Valence Kingdom only brought fear and anxiety to the people. Their fear was that the country might harm them instead of protecting them.

Siegfried realized what the mood of the people was and used it to his advantage. He used the Republic’s spies to agitate the people once again — let’s drive out the nobles and create an equal world, or, let’s create a future where our descendants wouldn’t be oppressed. What do you think would happen if you gave hope to the terrified people? The people rose up like a moth flying towards a light. Sporadic rebellions arose within the Valence Kingdom and each time, troops were mobilized to forcefully squash it down.

The rebellions that took place weren’t enough to threaten the authority of the king, but they still created a dangerous situation within the country. One, it led to the deterioration of public sentiment. The sentiment between the people and the current king’s regime had reached an irreversible situation. Two, the rebellions also led to the breakdown of the nation’s productivity. As the people’s rebellion continued, food production declined significantly. It was only natural since 30% of the farmers who should have been quietly farming and paying taxes participated in the rebellions. By the time the Valence Kingdom realized the seriousness of the situation, it was too late to do something about it. The Valence Kingdom had been rotting from the inside over the past couple of years.

Of course, Siegfried had caused internal strife in the Lester Kingdom as well. He particularly focused on the Northern region that was originally part of the Hildes Republic. Perhaps it was because Queen Leila had dealt with it appropriately but the public sentiment of the North had changed. Although there had been several small-scale rebellions, they didn’t have much of an impact. In the end, only the Valence Kingdom was severely affected by the Republic swaying the public’s opinion. 

When the Valence Kingdom realized that their national power had been greatly weakened, they feared the existence of the Republic even more. How could they not be anxious when they were sharing a border with the very enemy they were afraid of? In the end, the Valence Kingdom could only choose one option — to defend the country by leaning on the Empire. 

The Valence Kingdom had always been friendly with the Andrews Empire to begin with, but now, they were completely dependent upon the Empire. Moaning about the threat of the Republic, the Kingdom constantly sought help from the Empire. The Valence Kingdom’s nonstop requests were perfectly aligned with the current imperial emperor’s circumstance. 

“In the end, the Empire will eventually move. What should we do?”

When Milton asked Queen Leila for her opinion, she asked him a question in response.

“If the Empire and the Republic fought, who do you think will win?”

“I don’t know.”

Milton frowned as he struggled to come up with an answer.  

“I don’t have enough information to answer that question.”

How strong was the Empire? In the past, when the Strabus Kingdom was in its heyday, it hadn’t been able to surpass the military of the Andrews Empire. The vast military power and the land and population that could support that military power. It was estimated that the Empire was able to mobilize at least 500,000 troops if the vassal country’s militaries were included as well. But that was only the minimum and the actual number could be bigger. Additionally, the Empire possessed the most Masters on the continent and the level of their Knights were also highly regarded.

This was the type of country that the Empire was, but would they be able to win against the Republic? Milton shook his head at his own question. 

‘That monster Siegfried wouldn’t have touched the Valence Kingdom without a reason.’

If the Valence Kingdom was destroyed, the Empire would be next. Naturally, the Empire would protect the Valence Kingdom if only because they didn’t want to turn their own country into a battlefield. In other words, war was forecasted the moment Siegfried touched the Valence Kingdom. For Siegfried to have taken action even while knowing what it would mean, meant that Siegfried had a plan.

‘What I know about the Republic is information from three years ago. There’s no way Siegfried with his ambition would have played around without strengthening his power during that time… but would he have the power to surpass the Empire in just three years? It would have taken quite a while to stabilize his country.’

His thoughts kept going round and round in circles. In the end, he only came to one conclusion.

“I really don’t know. To be honest, I think it would be better to just toss a coin.”

“Hmm…”

Queen Leila crossed her arms and fell into deep thought. Disregarding everything else, her husband Milton’s views on war held more weight than hers. Currently in the Lester Kingdom, Queen Leila was in charge of domestic affairs while Milton was in charge of national defense, balancing the country. What that meant was Milton’s opinion on the war meant more. When Milton said he didn’t have the answer, there was no way Queen Leila would be able to come up with something. In the end…

“Why don’t we keep watching the situation?”

“I guess that’s the best option, right?”

Postpone. Even if the Republic and the Empire were at war, Milton and Leila decided to watch the situation rather than move immediately. Whenever something happened, this couple liked to either use underhanded methods or to act first. However, there was a time for everything, and this time, it was decided that it would be safer if they moved one beat slower. 

Not only was the subtlety of the situation a problem, but both of them had much to protect. The Lester Kingdom wasn’t the same weak country as before. There were too many things to lose if they gambled unreasonably and lost. So it was only natural to be cautious. And apart from national issues, they had something else to protect. For example…

Creaak.

As the door of the office creaked open, an adorable child with blond hair peeked in before entering the office with a bright smile.

“Mama Mama…”

The young girl who entered the monarch’s office without hesitation was the daughter of Milton and Leila.

“You came all the way here? That’s amazing, well done, Bess.”

Queen Leila smiled broadly and hugged her daughter who had toddled inside. Elizabeth von Lester, nicknamed Bess, was the daughter of Milton and Leila.

“Mamamama… Mamama…”

As if happy to be in her mother’s arms, the little girl smiled wide as she patted her mother’s cheek with her small hand. Leila must have found her daughter’s behavior to be adorable because she kissed her daughter’s cheek and showered her with love. Milton looked at the mother and daughter and thought to himself with a happy smile.

‘I’m glad she doesn’t hate her because she’s a girl…’

Previous Chapter Next Chapter