Milton rejected her idea before he even heard it. He knew what she was going to say. But she merely sighed before saying it.
“That’s the only way.”
“No. Even if that’s the case, it’s still a no.”
“Are you sure you’re not opposing it because of your personal feelings?”
“Maybe. But even if I think about it level-headedly, it’s still too dangerous.”
“Right now, we have no other choice but to ally with the Republic.”
“That bastard Siegfried is too dangerous!”
This was why Milton was stubbornly rejecting her plan.
How could they ally with Siegfried? It was hard for him to accept it emotionally and even if he thought about it logically, it was still too dangerous. If you were going to ally with someone, at the very least you had to trust them. But Milton didn’t have an iota of trust in Siegfried.
“Then what should we do?”
“I don’t know.”
Milton sighed before he continued.
“We have to buy some time first. I’m going to be sick starting from tomorrow.”
That way, they’d be able to avoid going to war immediately. However, they’d have to sit on the sidelines and watch the Republic be destroyed by the Empire. After that, it’d be a one-on-one fight between the Empire and the Lester Kingdom.
“I can’t believe this is the best…”
Even the great Leila could only sigh this time. That’s how difficult things had gotten for the Lester Kingdom.
Inside the Imperial Palace in the Andrews Empire, Emperor Gilbert was playing chess against someone.
“Can’t you go easy on me?”
“I am going easy on you, sire. If I wasn’t, then I’d have checkmated you three times by now. Check.”
The Emperor grimly looked at his king; it was being threatened by a bishop. If he moved his king, then his opponent would move his rook and put him in check again. If he moved back to retreat, then it’d be checkmate.
When the Emperor easily acknowledged his defeat, his opponent laughed as he spoke.
“32 times. But you lasted longer than before, sire.”
Emperor Gilbert didn’t look happy at all.
Sitting across from him was his opponent, a weak-looking old man who was just skin and bones and had a face full of wrinkles. But unlike his weak appearance, his eyes were clear and his voice was full of confidence. He held a fan made from crane feathers.
His name was Antras. He had originally been a commoner of the Empire, but now, he had been given the epithet Silver Sage by the Emperor.
Antras. The phrase “life is full of ups and downs” was an apt phrase for him.
He was born to a peasant in the Southern continent and lost his parents to a famine. At that time he had been seven years old but surprisingly, he sold himself as a slave. The seven-year-old judged that he couldn’t live on his own and decided that selling himself as a slave was the only way to survive. It was remarkable that a mere seven-year-old was able to think so dispassionately and carry it out. And so, he was sold as a slave to the Southern continent.
The Southern continent. It was known as a strange and barbaric land but there were some merchants who conducted trades due to the various specialties that were only found on this continent. Through them, Antras was sold to the Southern continent.
He was first bought by a merchant from the Southern continent. The merchant had originally bought young Antras to take care of chores, but Antras quickly distinguished himself with his extraordinary brilliance. He learned to calculate and conduct business transactions and immediately became indispensable to the merchant and thanks to that, the merchant quickly rose to prominence. Because of that, his master promised Antras freedom but died of old age before fulfilling his promise;
His new master was the son of his former owner, but this new master was disinclined towards him. Antras was a slave, and yet, because of his competence, he was at the top of the merchant house. And so, this new master sold him as far away as possible so that he wouldn’t see Antras ever again.
Thus, Antras was sold to the farthest part of the Southern continent, the southernmost region of it. And in the southernmost region was a kingdom called the Jae Nation. 
All Antras knew about the Southern continent was that there were many small and weak nations that were undeveloped. However, he realized that the Southern continent was much larger and more diverse than the continent that he lived in before.
Once he arrived at the southernmost region, he saw that most people had black hair and light brown skin. He learned that there were seven countries that had been fighting for supremacy for nearly 1000 years.
The country that Antras had been sold to was Jae Nation, one of the seven countries that were involved in the war. Was he lucky or unlucky? The person that Antras had been sold to was the greatest general of the Jae Nation, Lee Myung.
Antras was 18 years old at the time.
Antras’ brilliance stood out once again and he caught the eye of Lee Myung who started to educate him. Strategies, politics, etiquette, culture, etc… The teachers invited to instruct him could only gape in awe at his brilliance. His ability to absorb everything they taught him quickly was truly remarkable.
Lee Myung freed Antras and adopted him as his son and that was how Antras became Lee Antras.
He was 25 at the time.
Having officially become General Lee Myung’s son, Antras assisted his father in the war as his strategist. From then on, Antras’ illustrious career started. The army led by General Lee Myung had never been defeated and they destroyed the neighboring Wei Nation within three years.
The hegemony of the southern continent that had been maintained for more than 1,000 years began to shake; all because of one young slave. After that, Antras continued to be brilliant on the battlefield and Jae Nation toppled Su, Cho, and Ha Nations.
The Jae Nation became an empire and the king became an emperor. When the emperor ascended the throne, he gave Antras the title of Chancellor. A slave boy who once had no power had risen to the peak of the empire. It was simply remarkable.
Antras was 53 years old at the time.
When Antras became 60 years old, Jae Nation had established itself at the top and Antras had a family. He had married the emperor’s daughter and had a son and even a grandson. He had achieved everything in life. He had gotten past the hardship and succeeded in life. Having reached the twilight of his life, Antras had one wish.
[I miss my homeland.]
He had little memory of his homeland. At that time, he had been born a peasant and had always been hungry, but… despite all that, he began to long for his homeland as he grew older. Before he left Jae Nation, he dealt with his properties and told his progeny what he planned.
Of course, his children and their children tried to stop him, but they couldn’t win against his stubbornness. The old man’s wish to greet the end of his life in his homeland was stronger than they had thought. In the end, it was decided that Antras would return to his homeland.
He left behind his retainers and his family members and went back with as few people as possible. To be honest, it was a dangerous road back, but he wasn’t someone who was worried about what would happen with the remainder of his life. He had achieved too much in life to have any lingering feelings left.
Fortunately, there hadn’t been any significant dangers on the road and he was able to return back to his homeland. There, he met Duke Sebastian. It turned out that Antras’ hometown was a part of Duke Sebastian’s territories.
Their meeting had been coincidental but both of them had recognized that the other wasn’t a normal man at a glance. And so, the two similarly aged men became friends quickly. After speaking with Antras, Duke Sebastian learned of his brilliance and invited him to his own castle. Antras accepted without much fuss.
Having arrived at his hometown towards the end of his life, he had planned to greet the end of his life, but now that he had made a good friend, Antras had nothing more to wish for from his life. He stayed as a guest of Duke Sebastian and was spending the rest of his life as a conversational partner to him.
He was 70 years old at the time.
And so, a few years passed like that.
Duke Sebastian told Antras to accept a title from the Andrews Empire and go into politics multiple times, but Antras refused with a smile each time. He had already risen to the top in Jae Nation.
Power, honor, wealth. All of those were meaningless to him.
Even if he was to be given a title by the Empire, he wouldn’t accept it. Duke Sebastian understood his friend and didn’t push it too hard.
But one day, Duke Sebastian went out to the battlefield.
“I’m going on an expedition to the Valence Kingdom in the North.”
“Ah… Is there really no one in the Empire who can go, if an elderly like you has to personally go?”
Duke Sebastians replied to Antras with a smile.
“Hahaha… It just means that the Empire is overflowing with power that even an old man like me is enough.”
“Then good luck. Guess I’ll just have to play by myself for a while.”
Antras hadn’t paid much attention since Duke Sebastian had left with a smile. After arriving on this continent, he had spent his days leisurely without caring about the situation on the continent, so he never thought about how this war might end. He simply thought that it couldn’t be a hard battle since his friend was so confident.
But the outcome was shocking. Destruction of the reinforcement troops. Marquis Hailey Maroon’s death. Marquis Matthias Burkel’s death. Marquis Ryan Catel missing.
It was the most devastating defeat in the entire history of the Empire.
The Emperor’s wrath was truly formidable once Duke Sebastian returned to the empire. If it had been any other commander, the punishment would have been death. The Emperor ordered him to be under surveillance and Duke Sebastian personally took responsibility for the outcome of the war and sold more than half of his estate to give as compensation to the bereaved families of those who had died in the battle.
The first thing Duke Sebastian said once he returned to his estate was…
“Please help the Empire. I know I’m being shameless right now, but please.”
He had gotten down on his knees in front of his friend and begged him.
Antras looked like he was in a dilemma. He had been grateful to have met such a great friend that matched his own personality perfectly towards the end of his life, but now, he was in a predicament as that friend asked him for such a favor.
Antras had often been encouraged to participate in politics again but he had never been asked this desperately before.
“Haa… Sebastian, get up.”
“Antras, I… I…”
“Get up first. Then you can tell me in detail what happened on the expedition. I can only give you advice after that.”
“Ah… Sorry, Antras.”
Big fat tears dripped from Duke Sebastian’s eyes. Antras had said he would give him advice, which meant he agreed to his request. Duke Sebastian knew about Antras’ past, that was why he knew why the only thing his friend wanted was peace. Because he knew, it was impossible for Duke Sebastian to hide his apologetic feelings towards him.
“I am greatly indebted towards you.”
“There is no such thing as a debt between us. I just hope for us to be sworn friends until death. If you need the rest of my life, then I will gladly give it to you.”
Ultimately, Antras had decided to join in the turbulence of this world. This was something neither Siegfried nor Milton had expected.
Who could’ve known?
Who could’ve guessed that there was someone like him in the Empire?
1. Zhuge Liang, a military strategist, was said to have a fan made out of crane feathers to remind himself not to waste time and ruin his studying. Source: https://www.nspirement.com/2020/11/02/this-is-how-zhuge-liangs-feather-fan-was-made.html
Who saw Leila wanting to ally with the Republic? I certainly didn't see it coming...