Chapter 173: Imperial Intervention (1)

“Hector Sebastian of the Andrews Empire greets you.”

As the representative from the Andrews Empire, a man stepped out from the group and greeted King Nicholas. Instead of kneeling, he only gave a slight bow and though he was polite, it was obvious he was just going through the motions. Regardless of the fact he had brought reinforcement troops, if you considered the fact he was greeting a country’s monarch, his attitude was rather rude. However….

“Ohh… Duke Sebastian, it’s been a while. Do you remember that when I was still a prince, I met you once in the Empire?”

King Nicholas didn’t care at all about Hector’s perfunctory attitude. Instead, he was smiling brightly and trying to establish intimacy with him.

“Yes, I remember.”

“Ohh… it’s already been 30 years ago. I sincerely thank you for coming to resolve the national crisis in our country.”

“We are only doing our duty as the Empire.”

Although they were both talking formally with each other, it was obvious to those listening who was superior and held power in the conversation. In fact, it wasn’t wrong for King Nicholas to be this polite.

Duke Hector Sebastian. He looked like a middle-aged man, but he was actually an old man who was over 80 years old. He only looked middle-aged because he had reached the level of a Master and his body had remained young. Not only was he the oldest Master amongst all the Masters in the Andrews Empire, but he was someone who had a lot of experience and connections. Having served the previous Emperor, and the Emperor before him, Hector Sebastian was like the symbol of the Empire. 

However, he wasn’t the only influential person currently inside the palace hall. King Nicholas stood up from his throne and approached the others to speak to them, one by one.

“Marquis Maroon, you’ve also come. Even though the years have passed, you’re still dazzlingly beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

King Nicholas spoke to the only woman of the group first, Marquis Hailey Maroon. She was in her 40’s, but having reached the level of a Master and with her body at its peak, she looked like she was only in her twenties. With glossy blonde hair, blue eyes, white jade-like skin, and sharp sculptural features, her body had perfected itself once she had reached the level of a Master and she became known as the most beautiful in the Empire. However, because of her cold attitude and disposition, she was also known as the coldest ice flower of the Empire. 

King Nicholas was slightly disappointed by her terse response, but he continued on to the next person without showing his disappointment. 

“Marquis Burkel, you also came. Hahaha… just looking at you reassures me.”

“Haha, thank you.”

The only person to smile and respond to King Nicholas’ praise was Marquis Matthias Burkel. He was an intelligent man who was originally a mercenary, but once he became a Master, he received the title of Marquis from the Empire. Although he wasn’t a mercenary now, he was known as the Mercenary King, that was how much the mercenaries of the world wanted to be like him. He had a liberal personality so he was fairly informal, but he was known to be extremely difficult and demanding with people he had a bad relationship with. 

King Nicholas patted his shoulder as if he found Marquis Burkel to be dependable, then moved onto the next person with an awkward expression. 

“Hm… I didn’t think we’d see each other like this.”

“I see.”

“It’s a bit regrettable that you didn’t accept my offer at that time, but seeing you settled stably in the Empire makes me happy, Duke Catel.

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

The last person King Nicholas spoke to was Duke Ryan Catel, no, now he was a Marquis. Once he had been the guardian and duke of the Strabus Kingdom, but he had escaped after its collapse. At first, he had joined the Valence Kingdom in order to take revenge on the Republic but King Nicholas hadn’t agreed to his wish. King Nicholas hadn’t the courage to go to war with the Republic first, and so hadn't listened to Duke Catel’s one wish. Instead, he promised Ryan Catel a title, territory, and enormous wealth and honor. But that hadn’t been what Ryan Catel wanted. Struck by resentment over the collapse of his country and in particular, McCarthy’s betrayal, Catel left the Valence Kingdom and joined the Empire where he settled down with the title of a Marquis and one promised condition.

[Should there ever be a war with the Republic, please promise me that I will be at the forefront.]

In return, he became the Marquis of the Empire and now, he was here as promised. For the Valence Kingdom, Catel was someone they had regrettably lost, but at this moment in time, he was a very reliable person.

“I have great expectations, Duke Catel.”

“It’s Marquis now, Your Majesty.”

“Ah… yes, that’s right.”

With a bit of embarrassment, King Nicholas finished his greetings and turned towards Duke Hector Sebastian.

“Duke Sebastian, I will entrust you with full authority. Please defeat the wicked Republic and bring peace to my country.”

Even if the enemy was massive, King Nicholas had passed over the authority without hesitation. He had also studied abroad in the Andrews Empire when he was younger and was just as pro-imperialistic as the other nobles in his country. 

“Please leave it to me.”

Duke Sebastian accepted the full authority given to him as if it was only natural that it had been given to him. The war between the Empire and the Republic was finally about to start on the stage that was the Valence Kingdom. 

***

Duke Sebastian had brought with him 100,000 troops but he was able to instantly recruit soldiers within the Valence Kingdom until he had a large army of 200,000 men. Recently, the Valence Kingdom had lost 100,000 men. In order to recruit 100,000 when the Valence Kingdom had recently lost 100,000 men, Duke Sebastian enforced compulsory conscription. Any men who could fight in the capital and its surrounding territories were all drafted as they were seen. From young boys who were not yet an adult to old and frail men… as long as they were male, most of them were drafted. In addition, the nobles of the Valence Kingdom were told to cooperate since the country needed military funds and their properties were requisitioned. In a word, it didn’t matter what would happen to the Valence Kingdom after the war, the country was squeezed out of everything as much as possible.

King Nicholas had delegated full power to Duke Sebastian in order to protect his country, but there was something he was mistaken about. Duke Sebastian hadn’t come to protect the Valence Kingdom, the Empire had already decided to abandon it. The poison of the Republic had spread too much within it, the people were rebelling, and the nobles were corrupt. From the Empire’s point of view, investing money and manpower to revive the Valence Kingdom would do more harm than good. 

Before giving Duke Sebastian command the reinforcement troops, Emperor Gilbert had made one thing clear to him. The Imperial Army wasn’t going to defend the Valence Kingdom but to defeat the Republic that was being a threat to the Empire. He believed that the Republic needed to be pushed down now so that it could not expand anymore. That was why he had sent 100,000 troops and four Masters. Duke Sebastian’s act of squeezing the Valence Kingdom as much as possible in order to lessen the damages to his own men was heartless, but if you looked at it logically (coldly), from his point of view, it was correct to put his country’s interest first. 

If you looked just at the result alone, then Siegfried and Duke Sebastian were doing the same thing since they were pushing the citizens of the Valence Kingdom into their own war. However, the difference was that Siegfried was using his charisma to attract people to volunteer while Duke Sebastian was forcefully conscripting people. Naturally, the people stopped cooperating, which led to some unexpected problems.

***

“Whoo…”

Duke Sebastian sighed as he looked at the two people in front of him, Marquis Hailey Maroon and Marquis Matthias Burkel. The two of them were glaring at each other looking like they’d start fighting at any moment.

“Marquis Maroon, tell me again what you just said.”

Marquis Maroon continued to glare at Marquis Burkel as she replied to Duke Sebastian’s request.

“I said I’d like to have a duel with that scum.”

Marquis Burkel sneered at her in response to the insult. 

“Fine, then let’s take this opportunity and fight till one of our heads fly?”

“I’ll kill you.”

Marquis Maroon’s words were as cold as her epithet as she placed a hand on her sword. Seeing how the two of them looked like they were going to swing their swords, Duke Sebastian shouted at them.

“You’ll stop that this instant!”

When he burst out in anger, the two stopped provoking each other but continued to glare at the other. Watching the two of them, Duke Sebastian clicked his tongue at them as he thought to himself. 

‘Tsk, maybe I should have only brought one of them?’

Marquis Hailey Maroon and Marquis Matthias Burkel, it was a well-known fact throughout the Empire that the two of them didn’t have a great relationship. The two of them were too different from each other.

Marquis Hailey Maroon was an influential woman who had become a Master and had directly inherited the title of Marquis. She was the idol of the Empire, no, of the entire continent that all the Lady Knights looked up to. However, because she was a woman, she had been discriminated against countless times as she reached her position. Her family opposed her, the public perception, and the prejudice of men only treated her as a pretty ornament. 

Even amidst such discrimination, she had reached the glorious level of becoming a Master with her own strength and because of that, she had a slight bias against men. You could tell that since she was over 40 years old, but she wasn’t married and there wasn’t a single man she was dating. She hated the preconceived notion that women couldn’t do just as well as men and so, gathered up all the Lady Knights in the Empire and personally trained them, creating a group made up of only women. They became the Knights of the Silver Wolf and were led by her. It was a group that every Lady Knight wanted to join and was very competitive. She sometimes went overboard trying to protect the Lady Knights, leading to discrimination and hostility towards men. As a result, there were quite a few men who looked at her unpleasantly, but even if they talked about her behind her back, no one dared to say anything to her face. Well, ‘almost’ no one had the guts to confront her.

Then, there was Marquis Matthias Burkel. He was someone who was originally a mercenary but had risen to the level of a Master and received a title from the Empire. In a sense, he was someone who had succeeded with his own skills in an environment that was more antagonistic than Marquis Hailey Maroon. Since he was originally a mercenary, he was unfamiliar with the courtesies and manners of the nobles and made mistakes with his speech and behavior. But, like Marquis Maroon, he was a Master and a Marquis of the Empire. There was ‘almost’ no one who would dare to point out his lack of manners.

That’s right. Both of them were in a position where few people could point out their lack of standard behavior required from the nobility… Except for each other who was also a Master. They had clashed from their very first meeting. Marquis Burkel had first seen Marquis Maroon when he became a naturalized citizen of the Empire and a banquet was held to celebrate his peerage. Maybe it was because he was slightly drunk?

He saw her slender figure and sculptural face and without thinking, acted like so:

[Wow~ Smoking hot!] 

According to the testimony of the participants…

There had been dead silence for about 10 seconds. The men and women stopped talking, the musicians stopped playing, and the people who had been dancing as they whispered sweet nothings all froze. Everyone’s attention had been drawn to the expressionless and stiff Marquis Hailey Maroon. After a deep silence, Marquis Maroon calmly set down the wine glass in her hand. 

[As you wish, I’ll burn you down.]

The banquet ended there.  The two Masters clashed and simultaneously, a scream rang out and the people all scattered without even attempting to stop them. If Marquis Baker Gotham, also a Master, hadn’t gotten between them, they would have continued to fight until one of them died. Since then, the two of them were well known in the Empire for their violent relationship.

In fact, it was rather unreasonable to have both of them in the same reinforcement force. However, the two of them were competing with each other, trying to participate in the war first. Neither was willing to withdraw. In the end, both were dispatched and Duke Hector Sebastian was sent to control the two of them. Being the oldest person with the most experience amongst the Masters, Marquis Maroon or Marquis Burkel could not ignore him. With the addition of Duke Ryan Catel, who had originally been promised the position of vanguard in the war against the Republic, the reinforcement troops had four Masters. Officially, the Empire had eight Masters and half of them were sent to this war. And Duke Sebastian was busy mediating between the two of them. 

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