The Master of the Brave - Chapter 83
Chapter 83 – Planning
“It’s captain’s orders. These types of organizations have all kinds of connections, so we’re trying to infiltrate and get information.”
Lino and Wedge. Alongside them, two platoons of imperial guards and a court magician. A total of 23 people appeared one after another from the shadows that had been lurking from a distance. Because an old court magician accompanied them, he probably used “reduced perception magic”. Advanced magic that concealed who the magic was cast on. It was a magic used to keep a low profile on the battlefield. As she watched the imperial knights tie up the wounded men, Lino shrugged with a pitiful expression on her face as if she had bitten a bitter bug.
“You used us as bait… other than me, what were they going to do if something happened to Her Highness Cornelia?”
“Of course. We never stopped being careful. That’s why the captain also asked the court guards and court magician to be prepared to immediately intervene in case of an emergency.”
“But why did the captain ask the Court Knights for them? And that’s Meissen-sama over there, isn’t it?”
Wynn turned his attention to the direction in which Cornelia was standing. The Court Knights were knights whose main task was to defend the royal capital and protect important dignitaries, even if they were not of the royal family. Although they were fewer compared to the Central Knights to which Locke and Lino belonged, they had the elite knights handpicked from the Central Knights. Certainly, Court Knight was a title only given to the elite, and perhaps they were too much of a force to fight some slum thugs, but it was Cornelia who was involved this time, a member of the royal family. So, it was likely that the Knights of the Imperial Guard, who were tasked with protecting the royal family, were busy with other matters.
And Meissen, the leader of the court magicians. With pure white hair, a beard and an aquiline nose, he was a heavyweight known even to the knights. Meissen was acquainted with Cornelia and was now talking to her in a remote location.
“Imperial guards are of noble provenance. They are said to be the most powerful force in the empire, but in reality, they seem to have no battle experience whatsoever… The captain seems to have asked with a messenger expressly for the Court Knights to come.”
“What is Vice Captain Kelvin thinking too, did he really want to attack Letty…?”
Wynn was a bit dumbfounded, and Leticia, who had actually ended up crossing swords with Kelvin, looked at Wynn with a tilt of her head.
“Um, but you know what, Onii-chan? If he was really serious, he’d fight me to the death, wouldn’t he?”
“No, that’s not…”
Wynn was speechless as he tried to deny it. Actually, he couldn’t deny it. Though he didn’t put it into words, Lino seemed to feel the same way as she turned her gaze back to Wynn.
Cornelia, as she walked surrounded by Court Knights claiming to accompany her to the imperial palace, was watched by Leticia, who walked in front of her with mixed feelings.
‘That expression on Cornelia-san’s face… I’ve never seen it before.’
After the coup attempt, Leticia had been in close contact with Cornelia, who was a member of the royal family. She sensed that Cornelia was beginning to get closer to Wynn and the others. But, at that moment, the expression that hovered on her face as she took Wynn’s hand when he offered it to her, clinging to it… what if Cornelia had her same feelings?
‘I knew it could happen, but… I still don’t like it.’
It still wasn’t fun that other women were interested in Wynn. Or that Wynn noticed other women. Wynn’s thoughts were often directed at Cornelia more than before, since he was now her servant. It was only natural as his servant. After all, Wynn was supposed to protect Cornelia. But what about Leticia? Yes, he cared for Leticia, but there was no denying that their relationship was still something like that of a brother and sister. A relationship she could enjoy to her heart’s content, being certainly cozy, but it also made her feel impatient. Leticia let out a small sigh.
“N-No, it’s… it’s nothing.”
Wynn must have noticed the sigh and asked thoughtfully. Although Leticia replied that it was nothing, she was a little glad that Wynn cared, and it brightened her dark feelings. She had been looking forward to spending a lot of time with him ever since they met when she was six years old at the Wandering Bird’s Nest. But because of the oracle that declared her The Brave, even though she didn’t want it, they were separated for four long years. Now, however, it was different. Unlike those four years when they were separated, now they could meet whenever they wanted to. There was no point in worrying about it. That in itself was a step further in their current relationship… With that thought in mind, Leticia looked forward as if to cut off the anguish she had been experiencing until then.
That night. In a room in the palace, Alfred was going through a mountain of reports on his desk. It had been a long time since his father, Emperor Alexei, had stopped devoting his energies to political affairs. Currently, the Crown Prince, Alfred, was in charge of all political affairs, except those that absolutely required the Emperor’s approval. He would go through the stack of documents on his desk and seal agreements one after another. Alfred was steadily reducing the pile of documents, when his hand suddenly stopped on one report in particular.
The person who presented the report was Count Elstead. He was a bald, overweight, disreputable man who was extremely unlikeable. He who was also Alfred’s confidant. The report told of a raid on a village near the border that was believed to have been carried out by an advance team from Petersia, and which occurred prior to the armed conflict with Petersia last year. Elstead County, governed by Royce, was affected as several of the villages bordering the Petersia border were damaged. He had reported the results of his investigation.
Reading the report, Alfred agreed with the strange points Royce had made, and ordered his assistant to bring him some materials from the Imperial Palace library.
The Imperial Palace library stored everything from publications inside and outside the Empire to official documents. After a few minutes, Alfred let out a small gasp, comparing the material brought by the booksellers and the report delivered by Royce.
In many of the villages attacked, there were some people who had escaped the attack by going to nearby cities to do business. Upon investigation with the cooperation of those survivors, it was found that the number of bodies remaining was small in comparison to the number of inhabitants originally living in each village. This was the case not only in Elstead County, but also in Bresea County, Rembrandt Marquisate and Cliffdorf Marquisate. It was a Petersian raid that did not even appear to be aimed at plunder. If it was part of the invasion strategy, there would be no benefit in killing the unarmed people living in the territory. This was especially true if one planned to rule those same lands later.
Alfred let out a small exhalation as he rubbed his forehead.
‘I don’t see the purpose of this… Petersia is not a country with a policy of killing all citizens of hostile nations…’
For now, he would leave consideration of that matter for later and look at the next document. The next document was a petition from several nobles. It had been sent to Alfred many times recently, one that spoke of dissatisfaction with the princess’s servant, Wynn Bird. He was a commoner knight of unknown origin, not a typical knight of the guard working for the imperial family nor a Knight of the Court, the highest-ranking knights who were key forces in the defense of the Imperial Capital. Moreover, it was a matter of concern to the outside opinion of the imperial family that Princess Cornelia would be joined by a servant of the opposite sex close in age to the unmarried imperial princess.
These requests had been regularly delivered since Wynn had been made a servant. However, Alfred stubbornly refused to accept these requests, even rejecting those that he said “why not better, instead of having Sir Wynn Bird alone, select a few from among the noble knights to form a guard corps.” Some of them were even politely accompanied by a draft of who might make up this guard corps. In many cases, the proposed formation included the names of the sons of the same nobles who proposed the idea, as well as the name of a male relatives close in age to the princess, as a candidate for the position of servant.
Their transparent intentions were indeed quite impressive, so much so that it was already foolish for Alfred to read on, but while he was at it, the door to his room opened slightly. A servant informed him of the arrival of a guest. When Alfred told him to send them in, the door opened and his sister, Cornelia, slowly entered the room, looking dignified.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Yes. I was informed of the disturbances of the night. Old Meissen was worried. He’s a man who is very old now, so don’t put his heart through so many shocks.”
Meissen had been serving his family since the time of Emperor Alexei’s grandfather, and while he stood as the leader of the court mages, he was also the emperor’s consultant. In addition, when Alfred and Cornelia were young, he also served as their teacher. He rarely left his office in the back of the palace, but that day he did so at Royce’s request. And, on the way home, he chided Cornelia about her failure to perform magic in an emergency situation. Although the only thing he complained about was that fact. After that, he put the matter aside and moved his attention to Wynn and Leticia.
Incidentally, old Meissen watched as Cornelia clung to Wynn’s hand, but decided not to say anything. Cornelia had already braced herself for scolding.
“…Are you listening to me?”
Alfred’s voice brought Cornelia back from her memories of that moment.
“You called me here just for that?”
Alfred’s smile faded at the question and he looked into the eyes of his sister, who was standing in front of him with her elbows resting on the desk and her hands folded.
“No, I have a favor to ask of you. I know it’s far away, but I need you to be the one to go to the Kingdom of Lyon in my place.”
Cornelia cocked her head to one side at that comment. In the past, Alfred and Cornelia had planned to pay a goodwill visit to the Kingdom of Lyon, but due to the opposition of some nobles, it was decided that only he would visit the Kingdom of Lyon.
“Officially, I’ll be the one going. But actually, you’re going.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t tell you right now. But for now, just make sure you’re ready to go to Lyon.”
Cornelia nodded as she groaned inwardly. She knew her brother was up to something when he did this. However, by not telling her anything else to get ready, it was the same as if he was treating her like a child.
Seeing Cornelia with a clearly dissatisfied look on her face, Alfred handed her one of the nobles’ requests involving her servant, Wynn Bird.
“What is this?”
Cornelia, who was looking at the request with a dubious expression on her face, her face quickly turned red and she slammed the document down on her brother’s office table.
“Regardless of him being a boy of similar age, how can it be a stain on the authority of the empire and the imperial family that he was born as a commoner!? No way, dismissing him just for this reason alone is something that I, who approved of him as my knight, will not allow!”
Even today, Wynn did everything in his power to prevent her from suffering any harm without regard for his own safety. With that thought in mind, Cornelia leaned forward.
“I know, I know.”
Alfred nodded in a calm voice to his sister, who was so upset, which was uncharacteristic of her.
“When it comes to competence and character, Leticia-sama has vouched for him. I don’t see any reason to dismiss him either.”
Certainly, if the opponent could use magic, Wynn was as good as an ordinary knight. Compared to the Imperial Guard, which was composed of nobles with great magical powers, and the Court Knights, which was composed of elite knights handpicked from the main order, his overall ability was inevitably inferior. However, when magic power was blocked from them, which constituted the strength of the noble knights, as in the case of the coup d’état, Wynn Bird displayed his incomparable strength.
…Even to the point that it was said to be able to defeat even The Brave.
Also, in this vast imperial palace there were places where magical power was sealed. For example, while the emperor was in an audience with some messenger from another country, a Sealing Barrier was deployed to prevent assassination attempts. In such unlikely cases, Wynn’s success was guaranteed. In the event that he was not around, they would have to leave it to the knights of the Imperial Guard and the Court Knights. However, it could be the case that one of those same knights was involved.
Therefore, Alfred intended to create a guard corps for Cornelia, but would never agree to one of the formations prepared in advance by the nobles. For now, until such a guard corps was officially established, Wynn would be Cornelia’s only servant, but that was no reason to worry about his strength. After all, next to him, there was an absolute force that surpassed the total military strength of the Empire.
“Although they do have a point about it being someone of the opposite sex with an age close to yours. Whether or not that harms the authority of the imperial family…”
Alfred chuckled as he raised his hand toward Cornelia, who was speechless when she tried to argue.
“That’s what Leticia-sama is for, so it’ll be fine. Rather, if it’s such a serious problem, wouldn’t it hurt the duke more than the imperial family? Leticia-sama is going with Servant Wynn, isn’t she?”
“…It’s true when you say it like that…”
“An imperial princess and a duchess fighting for the love of a man…yes, that’s interesting…”
Cornelia was speechless for a moment as her brother smiled at her, muttering in amusement.
“…What are you talking about?”
She looked away from Alfred and answered him in a weak voice. However, she immediately turned back and looked at him.
“More importantly, brother.”
“What’s going on?”
“I will agree to your request to go to Lyon, but in that case, I have a favor to ask of you.”
Cornelia had a serious expression on her face, and Alfred looked at her, just as serious.
“I want to be treated like a knight cadet like before, not like an imperial princess when it’s not official business.”
The next day, Alfred had summoned Count Elstead to his office.
“It’s been a long time, Royce. Have you lost any weight?”
“Yes, I do my exercises well every day, but after work, my meals are quite tasty. After all, I’ve always believed that people will be healthy when the food tastes good.”
“No, there’s a limit to that…”
Alfred sighed. He was a good example that you couldn’t measure a person by his looks, even if the appearance of this Count Royce van Elstead in front of him, bald, fat as an ugly toad, of the look of a typical noble villain appearing in fairy tales and plays. Although vicious rumors circulated among the nobles of the Imperial Capital and those involved within the imperial palace, his territory was rich in grain, being the main producer of it in the entire empire, and there had never been heard of a rebellion in his territories. Although, above all, it was true that the count’s family was in debt.
“By the way, Your Highness, what kind of business concerns us today?”
“It concerns our upcoming trip to Lyon.”
Royce put his hand to his fleshy chin and thought for a while.
“As you know, it’s about a seemingly goodwill visit. But the truth is that it is for the purpose of concluding a military alliance. I have already obtained the informal consent of Crown Prince Raul over there. Afterwards, I myself will go and sign the pledge, and then the alliance will be formed.”
Alfred cut off his words at this point, and suddenly lowered his tone.
“Then, I will use this to set a trap. Petersia’s side will not believe this is a goodwill visit. They’ll probably take some action.”
“Are you trying to find out who’s working with them?”
“Yes. So, officially, I’ll pretend it was me who left for Lyon, but in reality, I’ll send Cornelia.”
“In that case, is there any need for Her Imperial Highness Cornelia to go to Lyon even right now? I believe that even after everything is over, it will be enough to realize the alliance. Besides, Her Imperial Highness is only seventeen years old. She is not old enough to be engaged in official business.”
“Yes, if it is only to expose the informant. But sooner or later, a battle with Petersia is inevitable. And I want Cornelia to see the outside world. I want her to gain experience. It’s okay as long as it’s someone from the royal family, since it’s just a matter of signing the documents the other side has prepared anyway. Besides, princesses are very popular with the populace.”
“Well, that’s true. If you hear that you are visited by a princess from a neighboring country, you will get a good impression in most cases.”
Originally, women in the Empire were finally considered public figures upon reaching the age of eighteen. Until that age, even if she was an imperial princess, her words did not represent the empire. However, Cornelia could not go out to negotiate without being eighteen. It was necessary for her to gain experience on how to behave and act in various negotiation situations. The matter of this military alliance had already been discussed between Alfred and Raul, and the rest was a simple matter of signature.
What Cornelia had to do was to improve the image of the Empire in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Lyon. Political negotiations were not necessary, but it was a good opportunity for her to experience how to behave as a public figure in another country.
Royce nodded as if convinced. However, he quickly stifled his laughter and smiled, distorting his face into one of a villain.
“But you didn’t call me for something like that, did you?”
“Yes. It’s about them. I’ve already placed them in the Imperial Capital as well. When it all starts, I want you to take command here.”
Royce nodded slightly as he looked at the paper outlining the plan Alfred had given him.
“I see. To be honest, I don’t like it too much. Well, I admit I’m the most qualified person to command them. Now all that’s left is to hope it works out well.”
“If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. It won’t hurt us at all.”
“By using your sister as bait, sir?”
“That’s why he’s here.”
“Certainly, if he says he’s going, there’s a high chance she’ll definitely go.”
“Rather, I’m going to ask her to go this time. It’s the country of Raul-kun, who was her companion. There’s nothing wrong with The Brave going too, right?”
“That’s true. But it will also be dangerous, you know?”
“I think it’s an opportunity that’s well worth the risk.”
When Alfred looked directly into Royce’s eyes, he let out a big sigh as if he had given up.
“I guess there’s no point in stopping now. I’m going to speed up the preparations. By the way, her highness Cornelia has sent us a request to formally participate in the mission that me and my squadron are currently in charge of.”
Alfred put on a doubtful expression.
“Umm… I’m going to have her go to Lyon, though. What are you working on now?”
“Right now, I’m on a kidnapping case.”
“Kidnapping? That’s more of a job for the guards than for the knights…”
“Indeed, but Count Baymond’s daughter has been kidnapped. That’s why the job came to us.”
Alfred’s inner thoughts about what part of that incident struck a chord with his sister came out in his expression. Royce smiled.
“It seems that Servant Wynn was involved in the kidnapping case in some way, and Her Imperial Highness took an interest in it.”
Upon returning the night of the previous day, Cornelia was urging Alfred to be treated as a knight cadet, as she had been before the coup d’état. That was probably why she sent the request to get involved in the case.
“As I said before, it will be a good experience for her to see the world with her own eyes. If anything happens to me, the one who will become the next empress will be her.”
Alfred, who did not particularly change his expression, said plainly.
“That’s horrible, please don’t say that, even if it’s a joke.”
“It’s not a joke. In fact, I don’t know what the future will be like, and perhaps Cornelia will show more aptitude for the throne than I do. In any case, she will move on to official duties after performing her 18-year ceremony. No matter what kind of work it is, it will surely be useful for her to experience various things in the meantime.”
Saying this, Alfred smiled at the noble in front of him who, despite his appearance, was not as one might expect.
“Usually, you can even be ambushed and attacked by thugs while out and about. It’s conceivable that I might get attacked somewhere and lose my life too, isn’t it?”
Royce rubbed his head and shifted his gaze sharply.
“As I expected, you found out anyway.”
Royce was not proud of having used the princess as a decoy, as he was even speechless. Alfred knew that Meissen, the leader of the Court Mages and head of the Court Magic Division, was an old friend of Zaunas and also of Royce. According to Old Meissen, Cornelia was not able to fight back using magic when she was attacked by thugs, only being able to be protected by Wynn. He must have had the thought that Cornelia would not forgive herself. She was like that. It could be from being involved in this incident, but she also must have had a strong desire to retrain and gain experience, since she was a knight cadet.
“Well, it’s not a bad idea to let her gain some experience under your command. But then again, I could always push for you to get a better assignment, couldn’t I?”
“No, there’s something bothering me, so I’ll leave it at that. Besides, I thought it would be a good opportunity to show Her Imperial Highness the lights and shadows of the Imperial Capital.”
“I see. If you say so, I’ll leave it as is. Of course, when she’s ready to go to Lyon, you’ll have to give priority to that, though. By the way, what’s that worrying you?”
Royce nodded and handed Alfred the report he had brought. Alfred glanced quickly at the report and stopped suddenly.
“Are you sure about what is written here?”
“As for the slums, we haven’t received any confirmation yet, but…”
The report said that several people who could use magic living in the Imperial City had disappeared. And it also claimed that a similar case was occurring in the slums according to what Locke reported just yesterday.
Alfred snorted as he covered his mouth with his hand.
“Speaking of which, I’ve been looking at your report…”
“Report? Ah, the matter of the body count not matching the actual number of residents in the attack on the villages.”
“You say they killed all the villagers to cover their tracks?”
“Are you saying that the objective was to kidnap the missing people, and that the villagers were killed to cover it up?”
“That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it?”
In response to Alfred’s question, Royce nodded with a smile on his face.
“The commotion over kidnappings in the Imperial Capital began to occur frequently right after the armed confrontation with Petersia. I wonder if there’s some kind of connection between the two.”
“But then again, what was the point of sacrificing so many villages to attack?”
“If you destroy the villages, you can at least reduce the power of the nobles in that region. Besides…”
Royce handed another report to Alfred.
“This is a report on the cases of disappearance that were recorded in our territory in recent years.”
Compared to previous years, the number of missing people had increased dramatically from one year to the next.
“And here are the figures for Bresea County and Marquisate Rembrandt.”
After all, the number of occurrences had risen rapidly, just as it had in Count Elstead’s domain.
“However… in all territories, the number of occurrences has been decreasing since about half a year before the armed conflict with Petersia.”
“That’s probably because each of the lords beefed up their security. And, in fact, the incidents of village attacks started to occur after security was tightened.”
“That… it looks like we need to investigate if all the people who disappeared were people who could use magic.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t know who disappeared in the case of the village attacks, but if it’s a case of kidnapping in the city, we can investigate it, so we’ll have it investigated now.”
“Let me know if you find anything.”
“Very well, sir.”
Royce bowed reverently. And as he turned on his heels to leave the room, Alfred stopped him in a tone as if he had suddenly remembered something.
“By the way, Royce. I’m going to try to ask you, if you were going to win against Leticia-sama, how would you propose to do it?”
Alfred asked as if he were making small talk. Royce, however, was not surprised by the question. Not only the Empire, but it was a matter that anyone involved in the core military affairs of the surrounding countries would have considered at least to some extent. Besides, if you put yourself on the front line even once and saw his figure, you couldn’t help but be aware of it.
…When The Brave becomes the enemy, how should she be treated?
Royce avoided giving an immediate answer, pretended to think a bit and opened his mouth.
“Yes, I wouldn’t do anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s also a human being, so she’ll die sooner or later if left alone.”
“That’s something that would take a long time, sir.”
Alfred laughed. It’s true that even if you are The Brave with extraordinary power, as long as you are a human being, you have a human lifespan. You will die in the end.
“But if you can’t wait for that time…”
“She is also a person… if you break her heart, so will her mind and her most cherished dreams, then she’ll commit suicide or something. Well, that’s what I would do. After all, I recommend the first measure. The best plan is to leave her alone.”
In the sense that they lived the day to the fullest, the people who lived in the slums might not be much different from the people who lived in the nostalgic battlefield where Kelvin spent every day. He was taken to the most magnificent room in the building, where the bald man first took him, he thought that as he listened to the bustle coming from outside. In addition to the hawkers and the voices of children, violent and angry voices of men could be heard from time to time. It was a little different from the hustle and bustle heard on the battlefield, but it made him nostalgic all the same.
“Sorry. I heard they’re going to be delayed before they get here.”
The bald man said that as he offered him a wooden cup full of wine, as if he thought Kelvin, who listened with closed eyes to the clamor coming from outside, was in a bad mood after having kept him waiting for so long.
“That’s fine. It’s quite usual for important people to be late.”
Since the incident the other day, the bald man’s treatment of Kelvin had improved greatly. Perhaps he thought he had saved his life, but the bald man prepared Kelvin a reasonably splendid room even for the slums and served him drinks this way. There was a possibility that there was surveillance in the residence, but with Kelvin’s skill, unless the person was too skilled, they wouldn’t even be able to see his shadow, but he had no intention of moving until he got some information. So, in his own way, Kelvin was enjoying life in the slums, where the scenery was somewhat similar to that of the battlefield. Perhaps because of his easygoing attitude, today Kelvin had received a job offer from the bald man.
He could sense that the wine he drank was cheap, but with a strong concentration of alcohol. The wine was strong and tasted bad, but, on the contrary, this reminded him of the taste of the wine he used to drink on the battlefield, which made him feel nostalgic. As he took the time to drink the wine poured into the wooden cup, there was a knock at the door and a man who appeared to be the bald man’s subordinate entered. After saying a word or two to his boss, the man left. At the same time the man left, the bald man looked at Kelvin.
“Apparently, they’ve arrived.”
Comments for chapter "Chapter 83"
Support Fan’s Translations
Note: Individual translators usually have their own ko-fi buttons.