Chapter 66: End of the Civil War (2)

Siegfried thought that Duke Palan’s forces would join the Southern Army to fight against the Second Prince’s army. Since this was a civil war, and the Second Prince was in the very center of it, he had thought they would concentrate their power there. But as if he had been waiting, Duke Palan greeted the Republican Army led by Siegfried. After a couple probing skirmishes, Siegfried had to give up. 

Although the army he had gathered to attack the capital were all elite soldiers, he still only had 5,000 men. Duke Palan wasn’t an easy opponent who could be defeated with a small number of troops. And so, Siegfried decided to step back and observe the situation first. If the Second Prince’s army defeated the Southern Army, or put up a good fight, then Duke Palan’s army might waver. However, the news came back with the Southern Army’s victory. 

Not only were there few casualties, but they had also captured the Second Prince and his allies were dealt with. Now, the longer the confrontation got, the more they would be at a disadvantage.

“It can’t be helped. I guess this is as far as we can go?”

With a small sigh, Siegfried decided to withdraw while quietly muttering two names.

“Milton Forrest of the Southern Army and Princess Leila…”

Siegfried smiled as he muttered the names of the two people who had burnt his plans to ashes. 

“I’ll remember them.”

* * *

The civil war was over. But even though it was over, it wasn’t a situation where they could be happy or joyous. The civil war had left behind a lot of gaping wounds on the Lester Kingdom.

It had devastated the country, and when the First Prince’s subjugation army was defeated,  countless men, fathers and sons, had died.

And because the Second Prince had brought in Hildes Republic, the Northern region had naturally been taken over by them. They only had half the nation's power from before the civil war began. In just one year, the damages to the country were numerous.

The people’s resentment soared into the sky and the current king August von Lester’s prestige and authority fell to the ground. But could it be considered the irony of time? The darker it became, the more dazzling some would become.

Count Milton Forrest. He led the Southern Army and saved the people of the capital just before it fell and had overwhelmingly defeated the Second Prince’s army, saving the country. In bars, the bards sang songs praising Milton, and on the streets, children swung wooden sticks shouting, ‘I am Count Forrest.’ As though saved by divinity, all the people praised that one name. Milton Forrest, the hero, was born. 

* * *

While returning with the army, Princess Leila spoke to Milton inside her carriage.

“How do you feel?”

“About what, Your Highness?”

Seeing Milton pretending not to understand, she smiled as if she thought it cute. 

“Didn’t you become the hero of the country like I said you would? So, how do you feel about that?”

Milton scratched the back of his head.

“My subordinates liked it more than me. And well, I don’t find it all that bad either.”

While they had been returning to the capital, countless nobles had approached Milton, desperate to be noticed by him. Some presented him with expensive gifts, and others introduced their beautiful daughters. Not too long ago, there were more nobles who didn’t know him than those who did. But now, as the hero of the country, everyone paid attention to him. 

‘It’s a very funny world.’

Milton smiled at Princess Leila. 

“No matter how popular I become, I still won’t be as good as you, Your Highness. How much did you expand your influence?”

Princess Leila gave a dazzling smile.

“Satisfactorily. It’s just as I expected.”

If Milton had become the hero of the country, then Princess Leila had the most possibility of becoming the next monarch now. 

It was known to the world that…

Princess Leila had been the one to convince Count Milton Forrest, who had been living a life of integrity and loyalty to the country without being swayed by money or fame in the South, to save the country. 

It was rumored that Count Milton Forrest had admired Princess Leila’s dignity, wisdom, and beauty that he swore allegiance to her. And because of their encounter was what saved the country. And the finishing touch was Duke Palan’s declaration of support for Princess Leila. 

Duke Palan had been completely neutral between the First Prince and the Second Princes’ the battle for the throne, but now, he had made an official declaration recognizing Princess Leila as his liege. With both the guardian and hero of the country on her side, Princess Leila was the closest to the throne.  

“Since the current king has lost the people’s trust, with a bit of pressure, it won’t take long to take over the throne.”

Princess Leila gave a bitter laugh. 

“Well… he might be my father, but he’s extremely greedy for power.”

“Hmm…”

“And on top of that, that fox in the capital’s bothersome. She’s not someone who’ll take defeat easily.”

“Fox?”

Princess Leila stared at Milton for a minute then gave a small sigh. 

“I guess you should know it as well, Count Forrest.”

She tucked her hair behind her ears as she continued.

“The First Prince’s wife, Claudia, she’s the daughter of Marquis Vamos. Have you heard of her before?”

“Just the name…”

“Once you get to the Capital, she’ll probably approach you, Count Forrest. It’s best to be careful. She’s not just any woman.”

Listening to Princess Leila talk about her, Milton thought to himself.

‘Could she be worse than you?’

But telling her that directly was just asking for trouble, so Milton changed topics.

“The Capital is only a day away now. I want to comfortably relax under a roof now.”

At his words, Princess Leila apologized.

“I’m sorry, but I think we might have to sleep out in the open a couple more days.”

“My Lady? Why?”

“I want my father to realize.”

“Realize what?”

Milton understood her vague words only after hearing her next words. 

“That his days are now over.”

Her face was wreathed in smiles. 

* * *

Ceremony of Triumphant Return. 

As one of Lester Kingdom’s traditional ceremonies, it was the biggest one celebrating those who had returned after winning a major war. In all of Lester Kingdom’s history, it was a rare ceremony that had been held for only two people. All the citizens in the capital would come out with flowers to welcome them while all the nobles would dismount from their horses to greet them. 

And the country’s king would personally come down to the public square to help the returning hero stand on the platform, while he himself would look up at the hero to express his gratitude. It wasn’t the king praising his vassal for his service, but the king expressing his gratitude to his vassal. In other words, it was an event that could bruise the image of the kingship. One of the two heroes who had previously been awarded this ceremony had been a royal, so that was fine. And the other was also alright because the king thought of him as close as brothers. 

But was the relationship between Milton and King August like that? Absolutely not. For King August, who was greedy for power, it was impossible to hold a Ceremony of Triumphant Return. Wouldn’t that just speed up the downfall of his fallen kingship? Of course he had no intentions of holding it. But…

“What? You want me to hold the Ceremony of Triumphant Return?

Even though he didn’t have the intention to, the nobles argued that Milton Forrest’s achievements this time were worthy of one. 

“Your Majesty, Count Forrest ended the civil war, defended the country, and stopped the invasion of the wicked Republic. In light of these achievements, it would be good to hold the Ceremony and raise public sentiment.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. If Your Majesty is willing to honor Count Forrest, the people will also rejoice.”

Many of his subordinates insisted that the Ceremony be held. King August was stunned. Even if he himself didn’t want to, the nobles themselves all insisted that the Ceremony of Triumphant Return happen. This was evidence that his authority as a king had fallen to the floor. Extremely displeased, King August stood up from his seat and furiously yelled at the nobles.

“It wasn’t even a national disaster, he just ended the civil war!”

It was definitely a national disaster. 

“And isn’t the North still in the Republican’s hands?”

That was King August’s son, Byron von Lester’s fault.

“A Ceremony of Triumphant Return? No way, not happening. Count Forrest doesn’t have enough achievements for that.”

King August made his decision and strode out of the palace. Some of the nobles who insisted on the Ceremony looked at each other.

“We did as ordered, but he really didn’t agree to it.”

“But we still did as ordered, didn’t we?”

“That’s true. We did as we were ordered, so now we just have to observe the situation.”

* * *

“Ahh…as expected of my Father. He never fails to meet my expectations.” 

Princess Leila smiled as she heard from the informants she had secretly planted in the capital. He was a man who had lived his whole life with power clenched in his fists.

Family, country, honor…

Nothing could be worth more than power to him.

That’s why he ignored his children committing fratricide and was so cold even when the women he shared a bed with died. In the midst of that indifference and coldness, Princess Leila suffered so much grief.

“You took the most precious thing from me…”

Princess Leila closed her eyes. 

She could visualize her beautiful mother and dependable older brother. And when she opened her eyes again…

“This time, I’ll take away your precious things. 

The flames of revenge were burning in her eyes. 

* * *

The Southern Army, led by Milton Forrest arrived at the outer edges of Lorentia, the capital.

And of course, King August hadn’t made any preparations to host the Ceremony of Triumphant Return. He only sent a messenger ordering Milton to present himself at the palace.

However, a problem occurred.

On the borders of Lorentia, the Southern Army suddenly stopped moving. Not only did they stop moving, but they also set up camp with the capital right in front of them. It was as though they were still in the middle of a war. When this news spread, it caused a commotion in Lorentia, from the commoners to the nobles. 

“Is it true that the Southern Army is camping less than two hours away from the Capital?”

“That’s what they say.”

“But why? The Southern Army can’t be…”

“…it could happen.”

The nobles in the capital were filled with anxiety. Not too long ago, the Second Prince had led the rebels within a short distance of the capital. And that time, it had been the Southern Army led by Milton Forrest who had saved them. But this time, it was the Southern Army that was camping right in front of Lorentia. It was only natural to feel anxious. But there was someone who was feeling even more anxious than them. It was King August, the current king.

“How dare… How dare they…”

Filled with anger, he couldn’t get his words out.

This was a demonstration of power. And a very obvious demonstration of power at that. What could Milton’s reason be for not coming when ordered and camping right outside the capital walls? He was showing that he could attack Lorentia at any moment.

This was humiliating enough, but the problem didn’t end there. 

If…

It was only a small possibility, but if the Southern Army was to truly attack, then there was no way for King August to respond. All the soldiers in the capital had been wiped out by Duke Sean Palan. And he had even declared Princess Leila as his liege.

Just in case, the king had sent a messenger, but he didn’t think it would help.

At first, King August was trembling with anger, but soon that anger turned to fear. Although Princess Leila was his daughter, without a doubt, she held a grudge against him. When her mother and older brother had died seven years ago, King August hadn’t done anything and remained neutral. He had thought she had died with them, but she was still alive. And although the daughter he thought had died, returned, he wasn’t happy at all.

Currently, that daughter’s power was stronger than his…

And the feelings she held towards him were obviously detrimental for him. Far from being happy, every time he thought about it, his neck got cold. The love and warmth of family? He didn’t expect anything like that. In the first place, King August himself became king by stepping on the bodies of his family members. There was no guarantee that his own daughter, Princess Leila, wouldn’t make the same extreme choices. Muttering, King August grabbed his glass with a trembling hand.

“I gave birth to a viper snake.”

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