King Nicholas didn’t seem very competent at a glance. He was almost as incompetent as the former King August. On top of that, Milton had never seen a trait called Toadyism before. He knew that Valence Kingdom was a country that held friendly diplomatic relations with the Andrews Empire, but he had never thought a king of a country would have this kind of trait.
‘He’s not a difficult opponent.’
Milton, having reached a conclusion, decided to keep his opponent on edge for now.
“Having come as reinforcement, I’m quite tired. I’m sure you have a lot to say, but can we rest first?”
Milton’s intention was to take a bit of a break while making his opponent nervous. Whether he realized that or not, King Nicholas nodded as he spoke.
“Sure, let’s do that. I’ve made preparations so that you may be as comfortable as possible, so rest until the evening.”
Having entered the palace, Milton and his men were treated warmly and with hospitality. They were given an entire wing of the palace where the royal family of the Valence Kingdom lived and were attended by servants.
When maids tried to enter when he was bathing, Milton smirked and refused.
‘What an obvious scheme…’
There were many ways to appease a person and using a beauty was one of the ways. While the Valence Kingdom tried to push the most beautiful and well-born royal court ladies to Milton, he refused all of them. His reason was simple.
‘My wife is much prettier.’
Since Milton was like this, the plan to use beautiful ladies failed. Once Milton had washed away the dust from his body, a royal servant came to him.
“The royal family has arranged a banquet to welcome the Grand Duke. Will you do us the honor of joining, sir?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t partake in banquets during a war. I find it odd that your country is even having a banquet right now when the current situation is like this.”
“Ah… I see.”
When the servant suddenly found himself being scolded, he struggled to come up with an answer.
“I’m rebuking you, but I want you to go back to your King Nicholas and tell him exactly as I said.”
And so, Milton’s words were delivered exactly as he said to King Nicholas. Nicholas’s mouth quirked up when he heard it. It was a facial expression that always came up when he was in a bad mood.
“So that’s how he’s going to be.”
King Nicholas was deeply ill at ease. He had tried to create a pleasant atmosphere as much as possible by having a banquet, that way, Milton would be won over and he would continue to fight for the Valence Kingdom. But with Milton acting like this, he felt embarrassed for trying to show goodwill towards him.
“Your Majesty, you must bear with it for now.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Now that the Imperial Army failed and has stepped down, it would be best not to offend Grand Duke Forrest.”
“You’re telling me to curry favor with that brat of a duke?”
“Your Majesty, as a monarch of a country, sometimes you must swallow both the bitter and the sweet whether you like it or not. Please make the right decision, Your Majesty.”
King Nicholas was clearly unhappy. From the beginning, he had never thought the Imperial Army would lose and had never dreamt something like the current situation would happen.
“Your Majesty, if the Lester Army retreats now, the country’s survival is at risk. Please keep that in mind.”
But when the Valence Kingdom’s nobles insisted upon the importance of the Lester Kingdom’s army led by Milton, King Nicholas realized he couldn’t argue against them.
‘Hooooo… His Majesty still hasn’t grasped how precarious our situation is.’
‘Grand Duke Forrest is half the age of King Nicholas and yet, he’s amassed several times the amount of power King Nicholas has. Why is our king like this…’
The seniors of the Valence Kingdom found it frustrating that their monarch couldn’t make the right decision even when the country was going through a national crisis. Naturally, they couldn’t help but compare him to Milton and his achievements, and could only sigh in response.
Truthfully, what Milton said wasn’t wrong. Despite being defeated once and even being pushed back, the Republic still occupied more than a third of the Valence Kingdom’s territory. They desperately needed the help of the Lester Kingdom in order to get this back. But what does he mean by holding a banquet? If the people knew, they would curse out the royal family and the nobility.
As he returned to the Empire with the Imperial Army, Duke Sebastian had said the Empire would send a second batch of reinforcement troops, the nobles couldn’t trust him. A reinforcement army wasn’t something that could easily be gathered and dispatched right away. Moreover, it was honestly debatable whether the Empire would even send a second batch of reinforcement troops when the first batch had suffered such a humiliating defeat that it would be written into the history of the Empire.
So, the only thing that could protect the Valence Kingdom right now was the Lester Kingdom’s army led by Milton. The ones who had spoken were those who accepted reality and tried to make the right decisions.
However, the political arena is truly a fascinating place. Just as there could be a traitor if there was a loyalist, in the political arena, if there was a talented person, then there was also a fool. There were people who were obsessed with the ridiculous idea that it would be embarrassing to be helped by a small country like the Lester Kingdom.
“Hm… Your Majesty. I think differently.”
This person was the representative of the fools - Marquis Vulcan Canier. He was the representative of the Royalist aristocrat faction and privately, King Nicholas’s father-in-law.
His family was one of the founding members of the Valence Kingdom and his eldest daughter was the queen of the country with his only grandson as the Crown Prince of the country. In other words, he was THE noble out of all the nobility.
“It seems to me that Grand Duke Forrest’s attitude is rather rude. If we are too soft and gentle here, it would leave a serious mark on the nation’s prestige.”
Seeing how such a great person like him was saying something so stupid, it was clear that there was little correlation between bloodlines and ability.
“Ohh… Is that what the Marquis thinks?”
The problem was, King Nicholas seemed to be listening to it. By nature, King Nicholas was incompetent and arrogant. When it came to the Empire, he was very obsequious and always paid attention to Imperial issues, but he was not interested in his own country’s problems. In fact, if King Nicholas had properly paid attention and done something when republicanism was spreading throughout the kingdom, then Siegfried would not have been able to stir up the nation.
An incompetent and arrogant king.
The high-ranking noble flattering and humoring that king was his in-laws.
The disappearing public sentiment dogged by heavy taxes and exploitation.
The threat posed by the Republican military holding their swords.
Frankly, it would be difficult to find a more perfect condition than this in causing a country to collapse.
But, the main people didn’t know this and just kept talking nonsense.
“Think about it, Your Majesty. How did Grand Duke Forrest intervene in our war?”
“I heard that the Empire gave them the order.”
“That’s right. They entered this war on the order of the Empire. That means, Your Majesty, whether they like it or not, they have to fight the Republicans in our country.”
King Nicholas nodded as he understood what Marquis Vulcan Canier was saying.
“It’s obvious why Grand Duke Forrest is tetchy, Your Majesty. He’s planning to make us pay as much as we can for him bringing reinforcements. It’s a battle of wills now, Sire.”
“So you’re saying it’s not a good idea to show weakness now.”
“Yes, Sire. It may even be that Grand Duke Forrest wants Princess Alina.”
“What? My daughter?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. After all, isn’t Princess Alina beautiful enough to be recognized by everyone as the most beautiful lady in the world?”
Some of the nobles listening looked dumbfounded.
‘Isn’t Princess Alina only 12 years old?’
‘Is he being serious right now?’
It didn’t matter what anyone else thought, King Nicholas and Marquis Vulcan were slowly becoming delusional.
“Since Princess Alina has such a wonderful heart and looks so beautiful that she might even join the Imperial Court in the future, it’s only natural that Grand Duke Forrest who’s known for his lasciviousness would want her.”
It was such a ridiculous claim that if the Imperial Court heard it, they’d be baffled.
But that wasn’t important to King Nicholas.
“He’s rumored to be lascivious?”
“He’s not a member of a legitimate royal family, and he’s only been given the title of Grand Duke because of his wife. And even with that, he still has three wives.”
“What? Then he wants my daughter to be his fourth wife?!”
Seeing King Nicholas flying into a rage, the nobles now felt as if their souls were about to leave their bodies.
‘Do you really think that’s gonna happen?’
‘More than that, who’s calling who a lecher?’
King Nicholas officially had seven concubines, and it was unknown just how many other lovers he had on the side. He wasn’t in a position to speak ill of Milton. Of course, King Nicholas didn’t think there even was a comparison between himself and Milton since Nicholas, who came from a legitimate royal family, was different from Milton, who had just risen to prominence.
On top of that, Marquis Vulcan Canier continued to spout ridiculous claims.
“Your Majesty, you must stay strong. Grand Duke Forrest will not be able to take back his reinforcements. No matter what he asks, we have no reason to be weak and discouraged in front of him.”
“You’re certainly right.”
Just what was he certainly right about?
After that, several people tried to persuade King Nicholas by emphasizing the importance of the Lester Kingdom’s army, but he refused to listen. He had come up with a very strange reasoning. Since the Lester Kingdom was participating on the orders of the Empire, then no matter what the Valence Kingdom did, the Lester Kingdom wouldn’t be able to withdraw their army recklessly. That meant they could, more or less(?), treat the Lester Kingdom however they wanted.
Having rested the whole day at the residence of the Royal family, Milton met with King Nicholas the next day. It was time to seriously get to work.
“Did you have a nice rest?”
“Yes, thanks to you, I’ve rested very well”
Even as Milton greeted King Nicholas, he could feel the king treating him colder than the day before.
‘No way, is he sulking?’
Milton had said something when they were talking about holding a banquet without thinking things through, but he didn’t think the king would be out of sorts over it. It didn’t matter though. What mattered was their main issue.
“Let’s start negotiating the war treaty in earnest.”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
The two monarchs sat facing each other with the table between them. King Nicholas spoke first.
“First of all, the main thing is that the capital must stay standing until the Empire sends a second batch of reinforcements. And so, I think it’s a good idea for your troops to preemptively attack and put pressure on the Republicans.”
Milton frowned at that. To his ears, it sounded like King Nicholas was saying...
[Shut up and fight.]
It was outrageously rude and caused Milton to become furious.
‘Let’s keep smiling for now.’
But he managed to keep his facial expression placid, after all, he did learn something from his vixen of a wife. Queen Leila’s view was that a smile was the strongest shield at a negotiation table. Of course, when Milton had heard that, he had said, ‘that only works if it’s you smiling,’ but a smile was a basic poker face. He was furious, but he continued to smile as he responded.
“Before we talk about military operations, I think it’s more important to sign a formal agreement on this war.”
This time, it was King Nicholas who frowned. To his ears, it sounded like Milton was saying…
[If we fight, what’re you gonna do in return?]
Of course, King Nicholas wasn’t happy to hear that, but Marquis Vulcan Canier had already told him before - the Lester Kingdom will certainly demand a price for participating in the war. That’s why he had a rough idea as to how to respond to it.
“Of course I’ll do my best to help you fight this war as smoothly as possible. You can leave supplying the rear to us. And if you want, I can even call for a draft and aid you that way.”
‘What an imbecile.’
Milton was dumbfounded.
Right now, King Nicolas was telling Milton that he’ll be in charge of the supply line, so Milton and his men should fight hard. It was like saying, “I called you in as reinforcements, but don’t worry, I’ll feed you.”
‘This bastard’s treating me like Hassan.’
It was like the comic phrase “Work, Hanssan” he heard in his previous life was changed to ‘Fight, Milton.’
The difference was, this wasn’t a gag. The other person was being sincere.
 핫산 I believe this comes from a comic by 최지룡 Choi Ji-ryong. It is used in situations where someone is treated as a slave or unfairly. So basically, Milton is saying that King Nicholas is treating him like a slave.