Chapter 198: At the Gates of Meichi Castle (1)

In Milton’s view, this country was already on the verge of ruin. Public sentiment had been lost and the country was devastated in the aftermath of the war. The only thing the nation and the people had in common was that since they were born, they may die someday. 

In Milton’s eyes, the Valence Kingdom was already at the end of its life. The only thing left to do was give the people who lived in this country a better ending so that they would no longer have a hard time. 

“The conditions won’t get any better. It’s time for you to make a decision.”

Milton crossed his arms and stared at King Nicholas as he agonized over the documents for a very long time.

***

In the end, King Nicholas accepted Milton’s terms. He agreed to relinquish all authority and rights to the war, as well as pay a huge compensation. When the nobles found out about it, they buzzed around like a swarm of bees, but it was too late. The diplomatic document relating to the two countries had been stamped with the King’s seal. That meant that there was nothing that could be done, it was a done deal.

The disappointed nobles turned their backs on King Nicholas. Many of them sought asylum in the Empire while others thought that Milton would become the new rising star and trusted him. Will you lean on the Andrews Empire? Or will you lean on the Lester Kingdom? Those were the two options offered to the nobles of the Valence Kingdom. Most of the nobles examined their positions and the state of the country and picked the side that seemed the most helpful.

But there were a few rare nobles who had no intentions of switching countries and were absolutely loyal to King Nicholas until the end. Ironically, it was only when the nation was in danger that the light began to shine on those few people. They tried to save the collapsing country by trying to connect with both Milton and the Empire.

‘They’re too good for an incompetent monarch. If they were the senior nobles of the Valence Kingdom, then the country wouldn’t be like this right now. But it’s too late now.’

In Milton’s eyes, their actions were useless, but seeing how desperate they were, he didn’t bother them. He had something more important to do, he had to focus on the war with the Republic.

He had defeated Siegfried once, but he didn’t think Siegfried would just give up. Milton had managed to keep an eye on Siegfried’s actions by sending out his scouts while raising the public sentiment of the Valence Kingdom at the same time. He had been receiving a steady stream of food and daily necessities from his country, the Lester Kingdom, and had been passing it out to the people of the Valence Kingdom. Most of the people who had been stirred up by republicanism were because they had suffered from the tyranny of the Valence Kingdom. For most of the people, their lives were before the ideologies and the governing system of a nation.

And so, Milton had been able to calm down the public by giving them supplies. However, the areas that he was calming were the western parts of the Valence Kingdom.He had been distributing the supplies to the areas that were along the path he had taken from the Lester Kingdom. This was all for the bigger picture that would take place after the war.

Of course, Milton’s actions caught Siegfried’s eyes.

***

“He’s prioritizing aiding the Western parts?”

“Yes, that’s what he's doing, sir.”

Having heard the new information that a Ghost member had personally brought, Siegfried thought as he looked at the map. The first thing he said was…

“So the Lester Kingdom is aiming to create friendly relations.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

When Siegfried said that out of the blue, Jake looked confused.

But Siegfried only continued to talk calmly.

“It means that in this war, the Lester Kingdom has no intention of fighting us to the bitter end.”

“......”

Seeing how Jake still didn’t understand, Siegfried continued on.

“They might have won against us once, but the Lester Kingdom has a weakness that prevents them from continuing to fight us until the end. Do you know what that is?”

“It’s that they have too few troops, sir.”

“That’s right.”

Siegfried smirked.

Since his last defeat, Siegfried had made it his priority to collect information on Milton’s army.

  • 30,000 troops.

Troop composition unknown, but Milton Forrest and his right-hand man, Jerome Taker, have entered the war.

The Southern Knights. 

That was roughly all the information given to him.

Seeing how Milton and Jerome had personally participated, it was equivalent to the top elites of the Lester Kingdom participating. But even so, 30,000 were still too few to reclaim the Valence Kingdom’s territory.

The Republic now occupied more than half of the kingdom. Even in areas that they had not formally taken over, Republicans were inciting trouble from within, so it would be extremely easy to occupy them. In fact, if they attacked and caused the capital to fall, then the entire country could be conquered; just like they had destroyed the Strabus Kingdom in the past. 

However, Milton was blocking the way to the capital while rejuvenating public sentiment in the West for the Valence Kingdom. Just what could this mean? Siegfried knew exactly what it meant.

“Milton’s, no, this is probably Queen Leila’s doing. She’s currently giving me a suggestion right now. ‘We’ll take over the western region, but you can have the rest.’”

Jake frowned at Siegfried’s words.

“Sir, this is exactly like how we lost the western region of the Strabus Kingdom, even when we had our eyes open.”

“You’re right. But, the difference between that and this is that last time, we soothe the nobles, but this time, it’s the commoners we’re pacifying and persuading. The influence of the nobles in the Valence Kingdom is nonexistent.”

Jake became deeply ill at ease as he listened to Siegfried. The Republicans had almost destroyed the Valence Kingdom. It was finally time for Siegfried to reap the sweet fruit of his labors after he had spent a long time spreading republicanism in the Valence Kingdom and fighting and winning against the Empire. But suddenly, Milton had appeared on the side and was saying, ‘let me have a bite too,’ and demanding that they give him a third of the fruit.

The more Jake thought about it…

“Damn him…”

He was pissed. Siegfried grinned when he saw how furious Jake was.

“Are you really that angry?”

“Yes, sir. I feel like he’s being really shameless. It also makes me angry that such a guy is considered to be your equal by the public.”

It wasn’t often that Jake got so angry. Siegfried smirked at him as he spoke.

“Like I said, there’s a higher possibility that this came from Queen Leila’s head, not Milton Forrest’s.”

“That’s the same thing, sir. They match each other very well.”

Siegfried smiled on the outside, but he was coldly and logically looking over the situation.

‘Should I accept it? Or should I ignore it and drag it to the end?’

Milton only brought 30,000 troops. In the previous battle, Siegfried had lost a lot of men to Milton, but the Republic still had more than 50,000 troops. Their military strength was very good, and their supplies were also great. In short, they were stronger. More than anything else, war was something Siegfried could confidently gamble on. But, there was something he was hesitant about…

‘Milton Forrest, that guy isn’t easy.’

It was Milton’s presence. So far, Milton Forrest had been both a hindrance and a rival, but at the same time, he was someone that Siegfried could always defeat if they met on the battlefield. Even if Siegfried had tasted defeat a couple of times, he had always been confident that if he really wanted to, then he could easily win the battle if they met. But, he didn’t have the same confidence this time.

However, even if he didn’t have the confidence, he had still been sure he would win and had attacked the enemy. It had been a surprise attack, but he had still properly arranged his troops.

But, the result was Siegfried’s defeat. It hadn’t been just a simple defeat either. This time, Siegfried’s life had been in danger and he knew the reason why. It had all been because of the new weapons used by the Lester Kingdom. 

When he had managed to procure and examine some of them, the results had been shocking. It was a composite bow that was far more superior than the special crossbows of the Kobrook Republic. Armor that caused the heavy infantry to become more solid defensive walls than mediocre knights. It had been determined that both objects had been created with special metal that had never been seen before. 

‘I’m sure if we examined and experimented with it carefully, we’ll eventually figure it out. But it’s impossible for me right now.’

That meant they needed to fight with inferior weapons, which meant that Milton’s Lester Kingdom’s army wouldn’t be easy to fight against

‘What should I do? If the Lester Kingdom were to occupy the western part of the Valence Kingdom, then it’s clear that they’ll only become stronger.’

Seeing Siegfried being so troubled, as rare as that was, Jake spoke up.

“Sir, if their intentions are to take over the West, then how about we take it first?”

“If we move our forces, then Milton Forrest will move as well.”

“I’m not afraid, sir.”

“War isn’t fought just with confidence. A war without a clear chance of winning is just a gamble. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, I won’t gamble.”

“Then how about we split the army into two and advance?”

“Divide into two?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll lead 20,000 men and take over the western region while you lead 30,000 men and attack the capital of the Valence Kingdom. Since the Lester Kingdom’s army is much smaller than ours, they will only be able to respond to one of our attacks, sir.”

Even as he spoke, Jake thought it was a pretty good plan. However, Siegfried shook his head.

“That would be a hell of a mistake, Jake?”

“Sir?”

The unexpectedly harsh criticism surprised Jake. 

“If we divided the army, the entire Lester Kingdom’s army will attack the one I am in charge of.”

“Do you mean that they’ll leave the western part of the Valence Kingdom alone, sir?”

“If I were him, I would value the chance to cut off my, Siegfried’s, head more than taking over the western part, no, the entire Valence Kingdom.”

“Ah…”

Jake finally realized his mistake. Even if the entire Valence Kingdom became a part of the Republic, it would be meaningless if Siegfried was defeated. 

“Then how about disguising ourselves, sir? If I disguised myself as you and led the army, you could attack the West instead…”

“Whether the disguise would work or not, you would be the one in danger then if the plan worked.”

“As long as it would help your plan, sir, I don’t care about my life.”

Siegfried frowned at Jake’s comment.

“I need you for my plans. I cannot trade you for the western part of the Valence Kingdom.”

“But, sir…”

“Enough!”

Having strongly interrupted him, Siegfried continued to talk.

“If I need your life, I will order you without hesitation. But, I decide when and where.”

Siegfried was firm.

“I understand, sir.”

In the end, Jake could only accept Siegfried’s words. Even though his opinion had been rejected, a part of Jake felt a subtle sense of satisfaction. Wasn’t it said that a knight would die for his Lord who recognized him? While Jake had zero ambition, he was still glad that Siegfried valued him more than a third of a country’s territory. Siegfried knew what Jake was thinking, but he pretended not to know as he made calculations in his head.

If the war was avoided and an agreement could be reached with the Lester Kingdom, then the central and northern parts of the Valence Kingdom could be merged with the Republic without consuming any more national power. This alone would be enough to set the stage for attacking the Empire.

But he was reluctant to let the Lester Kingdom get the western part of the Valence Kingdom. If the Lester Kingdom’s power grew further, then it would be too troublesome for the Republic.

What do they gain and what do they lose? What would the future hold as a result? Having thought through many potential scenarios, Siegfried began talking.

“For now, we better fight against them one more time.”

“I will obey your decision, sir.”

“There’s no need to be so determined. For now, it’s not going to be a war focused on winning.”

In the end, Siegfried chose war.

However, it wasn’t a war that decided life or death. It was a war meant to test and prod the Lester Kingdom one more time. He had decided that experiencing the strength and power of the Lester Kingdom one more time would be helpful to him. It was a war meant to collect information while also trying to profit from it. That was Siegfried’s decision.

Of course, the best thing would be to get rid of Milton Forrest’s troops without fighting. And for that, Siegfried sent a letter to the Republic using the fastest carrier pigeon. And to prepare one more scheme, he met with Eliza. 

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