Chapter 219: The Unexpected Guest (1)

“It’s a good thing we listened to the Sage and didn’t pursue the enemy.”

Marquis Gotham had begun talking in an attempt to get rid of the heavy atmosphere.

“That’s right. If we had chased after them when they started to retreat, our supply line might’ve hit a snag. 

“It could’ve been very dangerous.”

“It was all thanks to the Silver Sage’s wisdom that we escaped the danger.”

One by one, the commanders all made hopeful observations.

“Since the enemy destroyed all their infrastructure, it’s impossible for us to pursue them right now. Only after we secure our supply line can we slowly move forward...”

When Antras spoke, the commanders agreed.

“I’ll inform the Empire to begin securing the supplies.”

“In addition to securing supplies, we have to rebuild a stronghold along the path we’ll be taking as we advance.”

“In that case, we’ll need more people than just soldiers. We better mobilize all the extra serfs in the South.”

“Good idea.”

The Imperial officers spoke of and carried out all the necessary actions to advance.

However, Antras was deep in thought even as the other officers bustled around.

‘If we need to create a supply line, then it’ll take some time. In the end, Siegfried gave up half his land and bought himself some time. What’s he planning to do with that time?’

Antras was thinking hard when his expression suddenly changed.

“Cough…”

When Antras gave a dry cough, Duke Sebastian turned and approached him. 

“Let’s end it here tonight. It’s gotten late.”

“You’re right. I’ll leave the supply line to all of you. Once you’ve finalized it, please let me know.”

As Antras stood up and left for his barrack, Duke Sebastian went with him with a worried look on his face.

“Are you all right?”

“Hahaha… Why wouldn’t I be all right? It’s not strange considering my age.”

“......”

Duke Sebastian’s face stiffened as he helped Antras into his bed. He could see that Antras’s health had clearly deteriorated compared to when he was at the estate. If you think about it, that was only natural. Even if the chief-of-staff was just in charge of the strategy and did not directly engage in combat, he would still use up his energy and mental power in the tense situation that was war. No matter how used to the situation he was, there was no way it wouldn’t be difficult on an old man’s health. Unlike Duke Sebastian who was a Master, Antras was just an ordinary old man.

Duke Sebastian couldn’t help but feel grateful, yet sorry, for his friend who was sacrificing his own life at his request while helping them out.

“Get some rest for the time being. The others are perfectly capable of securing a supply line on their own.”

“Mm… I got it. But make sure to pay attention to the Republic’s movements. Let me know as soon as they make any suspicious moves.”

“I will.”

And so, Antras was able to step down from planning and recuperate for a while.

***

What did Siegfried gain by giving up half his land? If the Imperial Army had unreasonably tried to pursue them, then they would have attacked the supply line and turned the tide of war, but that was impossible. Antras put prudence over pursuit and hadn’t chased them; Siegfried hadn’t wanted that result either.

What Siegfried gained was time. 

The Imperial Army had mobilized no less than 500,000 men. Just simply moving that many troops would require a tremendous amount of supplies; moving through ruins where infrastructure was completely destroyed would be very difficult. Whether they liked it or not, the Imperial Army had to gather their supplies and prepare. No matter how fast they moved, it would take at least two, if not three months. 

In the end, Siegfried had to make the most of this time.

“But I don’t know how he’ll make use of that time.”

Milton stared at the strategy map with a serious look on his face. By his side was Queen Leila along with the other senior members of the state, including Jerome and Count Sabian.

“I honestly didn’t think the Empire would be this overwhelming. Now that it’s come to this point, I don’t see a solution for the Republic, sir.” 

Jerome believed that the war was leaning completely towards the Empire and the others agreed.

“The Empire is an Empire.”

“Who knew they’d show this kind of destructive power once they concentrated their forces…”

No one had thought that Siegfried would lose this badly. Everyone here knew very well how strong the Republican Army led by Siegfried was. So how could someone like that be defeated this unilaterally?

‘Is it really all right to let the Empire take supremacy like this?’

Not everyone spoke, but all of them had similar anxieties.

“Grand Duke, what will you do?”

“What do you mean?”

Milton answered with a question at Count Sabian’s question. When he did, Count Sabian gave a sigh.

“Sir, you know, don’t you?”

“......”

Milton didn’t respond, but as Count Sabian said, he knew the answer.

‘If we hesitate any longer, we’ll lose the chance.’

Siegfried had bought himself time by destroying half of his country. If the Lester Kingdom wanted to step in and balance the board, then this was their last chance. But, just the idea of choosing to partner with the Republic was reason to hesitate.

It’s said that there’s no eternal enemy or ally in international relations. However, Milton thought that even if he could work with the Republic, it was impossible to ally with Siegfried. 

‘It’s too hard. As long as he doesn’t give up his ambition, it’s no different than riding on a tiger’s back.’

Ultimately, the problem was the suspicion Milton held towards Siegfried. But to leave the situation as it was, the Empire’s rise was too frightening.

In the end, Milton couldn’t do anything but hesitate.

Then… an attendant told Count Sabian something. And then…

“Grand Duke, Your Grace, the Grand Chamberlain is requesting a meeting.”

“I’m sure I told them not to disturb me since I’m in a meeting?”

“Yes, Your Grace, but he says it’s urgent.”

He didn’t know what it was, but it must be important if the Royal Court’s Grand Chamberlain was willing to brave interrupting the meeting.

“Then I’ll go meet with him.”

Milton left the conference room and summoned the Grand Chamberlain.

“What’s going on?”

“Grand Duke, there’s a guest for you at your residence.”

Unlike his usual calm self, the Grand Chamberlain looked very nervous.

“Who’s the guest?”

“It’s…”

When the Grand Chamberlain told him who it was, Milton doubted his ears for a second.

“Really?”

“Yes, Your Grace. I’m sure.”

Milton couldn’t believe it. He even wondered whether his Grand Chamberlain was senile or he was dreaming.

“Honey, what’s going on?”

Leila had come out a bit later than him from the conference room and Milton answered her in a dazed voice. 

“He said Siegfried came to see me.”

“WHAT?”

“Alone.”

“......”

Even Leila was dumbfounded by this. 

***

‘Is this the Lester Kingdom’s capital?’

The country that he had tried countless times to conquer but failed. Siegfried was feeling odd about all this.

‘If Milton Forrest hadn’t dragged me down in the beginning, the Empire wouldn’t have unilaterally defeated us…’

Because of that, Siegfried couldn’t help but feel regret. Just as Siegfried was deep in thought…

“Mister, who’re you?”

Siegfried heard a voice coming from close to the ground. For a moment, he was taken back.

‘Mister? Is that towards me?’

Commander-in-Chief, Your Excellency, Fuhrer, Master. He had been addressed by many titles, but rarely Mister. When he looked down, he saw an adorable girl and a little baby who seemed to be her younger sibling. Seeing how they were holding each others’ hands tightly, it seemed like they were brother and sister.

‘I see. These two are…’

Children living in the royal palace. Not to mention, they were siblings; it was obvious who they were. 

“Are you Milton’s children?”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened at Siegfried’s question.

“Woahh… Mister, you call my dad by his name?”

“Huh? Uh… um, yeah.”

In Elizabeth’s short life, she had never met an adult who called her father by his first name. On top of that, he was talking casually to her. Except for her parents, all the adults spoke formally to her.

“You know our dad?”

“Mm, yeah, I know him very well.”

He did know Milton very well. In multiple ways. Just how much information about each other had they gathered? It wasn’t wrong to say that Milton and Siegfried knew each other very well.

But Elizabeth grinned innocently at his answer.

“Heehee… You must be really close to each other. Then Mister, are you and my dad friends?”

“......”

The great Siegfried was at a loss for words. The two of them struggled to kill each other on the battlefield. So how could they be considered friends?

Since his ‘opponent’ was a child, he could lie and give her an appropriate answer, but he was somewhat reluctant to do that. The person to save Siegfried from that troublesome situation was...

“Bess, come here, love.”

It was his archrival that he had tried to kill countless times on the battlefield, Milton.

“Dad!”

Elizabeth immediately ran and leaped into Milton’s arms when he appeared. Slower than his older sister, William toddled over and clung to Milton’s leg.  Milton hugged his children before handing them over to a maid as he spoke to them. 

“I’ll play with you later. Dad needs to talk with that man.”

“With your friend?”

Milton’s expression crumpled at those words. He turned to look at Siegfried.

His eyes were asking, ‘You did this?’

Siegfried shrugged, ‘Would I?’

They were old enemies who understood each other without saying a single word.

***

Milton and Siegfried sat with a table between them. The two of them started talking without anyone, not even Leila, involved in it. 

The location of the meeting wasn’t in a dark secret room but at a tea table outside in the garden. In this beautiful garden where a little bird was chirping and the warm sunshine was shining on the green grass, Milton’s first words were…

“How do you want me to kill you? I can at least give you that.”

What a harsh thing to say.

“Suddenly threatening me?”

“Of course, you thought you could return alive?”

Milton’s words weren’t empty threats. Even if he was considered dishonorable by the other countries, there was much more to be gained by killing Siegfried right here.

He had arrived with his own feet without his right-hand Jake or guards, the Ghosts. If Milton was Siegfried, he would never have done something this insane.

There were times in your life where you had to gamble, but if your life was at stake, it was a different story.

And there was no way Siegfried didn’t know this. He had come even knowing that.

“Before you kill me, let’s talk first.”

“If it’s your last will, then I’ll listen.”

Siegfried grinned at Milton’s words.

“We’ll have to see whether it becomes my will or not…”

Siegfried straightened up and began to talk.

“I’m officially proposing a military alliance between the Republic and the Lester Kingdom.”

“Is that all you’re going to say?”

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