VOLUME 3: CHAPTER 191 – DIPLOMATIC WAR (1/3)
After forcing the goblin army away, Elrain Kingdom returned to Pena with the Order of the Blue Knights . They left behind 3,000 soldiers to construct a fortress that would keep watch over the borderlands .
The reason the Red King could not attack the goblins was because Vilan Do Zul of the Kushain believers was able to quickly conclude the battle in the north and return to Cultidian .
The goal of the Red King is Pena . If they were to force an attack against the goblins and suffer heavy casualties, they would risk being attacked by the Kushain believers from the north .
Especially since the saint, Mira, was currently itching for vengeance after being made a fool of . No matter how low the odds were, a ‘holy war’ while fighting in the borders was simply disastrous, as it would put all of their efforts until now to waste .
Because of that the Red King could not attack the goblins .
In contrast, the goblin forces suffered heavy losses after their battle with the Order of the Blue Knights . Even the Goblin King himself incurred heavy wounds, so they avoided facing off against the Red King, and after gathering their soldiers, returned to the borders .
They couldn’t even afford to station the minimum number of soldiers required to repel the construction of the fortress as they were left wondering: Why? Why did the enemy suddenly appear? How did this get past them?
It was then that they got word from their spies at Cultidian .
That intel contained information regarding the movement of Fatina’s Army, but unfortunately, it was a little too late . To make things worse, the information did not even come directly from Fatina, but was instead leaked by Cultidian .
Then while they were still busy with that ‘new’ information, word of Mira’s proclamation to the people reached them .
“The Kushain Believers are undoubtedly hostile toward Elrain Kingdom, but…” Zaurosh said as he scrutinized the new intel .
“The enemy of an enemy is a friend, I suppose,” the Goblin King nodded .
The Kushain Believers were manipulated by the Red King, then the goblins and the forces of Pena were made to fight each other, greatly reducing their respective strength within a short time .
“If we are to make a come back, we’ll have to start from here,” the Goblin King said without the slightest signs of discouragement . “Can we pass a rumor to the Kushain spies?”
Zaurosh made a troubled face . “…Unfortunately, that is currently beyond the capabilities of our intelligence department . ”
When it comes to a battle of information, a draw against one’s opponent is quite painful . It leaves one at a grave disadvantage during diplomacy .
One saving grace was that Gi Gu Verbena’s forces have finally rendezvoused with the Goblin King, bringing their numbers up to 1,800 . But even that wasn’t enough .
Their enemy had an army of over 10,000 soldiers . At this rate, the Goblin King might have to part with the borderlands .
“Gi Zu is wounded, so we’ll send him back to the west and have Gi Ba fill in,” the Goblin King said .
If the borderlands were to fall, they won’t have the leisure to protect it . Its fall would also mean that all of their efforts here would be put to waste, but at the very least, the Goblin King wanted to ensure Gi Zu’s safety .
The Goblin King believed that the one edge the goblins had over the humans are their fertility and ability to become stronger via evolution (class promotion) . He believed that as long as he could protect his forces, even in the worst case scenario, they should be able to recover .
“What of the small feudal lords?” The Goblin King asked .
“They don’t seem to be panicking . We may have had to retreat, but Razuel still stands, and reinforcements came almost immediately after, so they’re not feeling the heat just yet,” Zaurosh said .
“So at least we don’t have to worry about that front,” the Goblin King said .
The Goblin King was still worried, however . After all, they were dealing with an army about 10 times their size . Moreover, they did not have a trick up their sleeves like they did when facing the Kushain Believers . To make things worse, this army of 15,000 is renowned for defeating the Kushain Believers and conquering Fatina .
It was doubtful they’d be able to win in a straight-up fight .
The Goblin King decided they currently had no other card to play but to recover their forces, but unfortunately, he would be forced to change that decision the very next day .
“A demand to surrender from the Kushain Believers?” the Goblin King asked .
“Yes . It arrived at the mansion of Shirak Territory a few days ago,” Zaurosh said .
Zaurosh could see the Kushain Believers annexing the borderlands and striking against the weakened goblins .
After their battle with the Order of the Blue Knights, word has been spreading due to the Red King . Originally, it was the bravery of the Blue Knights that was talked about, but with the passing of the renowned knight commander, the attention turned to the Red King . It wasn’t hard to see what the people were expecting .
“They plan to ride this momentum and swallow us, huh,” the Goblin King folded his arms .
They could defeat them if it were just the Kushain Believers, but the problem was that a fortress was currently being built in the southern part of the borders . If they were to make use of that and Elrain Kingdom were to appear, then they could be kicked out of the borders right there and then .
Still… They couldn’t surrender .
The Goblin King had a difficult decision to make .
Vilan, who had just returned from war, was summoned by Saint Mira to the late Kushain Patriarch’s bedroom .
“His Highness is also worried…” Vilan said .
“I won’t, I won’t! I won’t come back! If you try and take me back by force, then I’ll hate you! …Tell that to my father,” Mira said .
“What if his lungs get worse again? Like when we were kids…”
“J-Just how long do you intend to drag that old story!? That illness only happens once . Once you’ve had it, you can’t get it again! And since he’s been healed already, I’m sure he’ll be fine!”
Mira was as selfish as a child, but she had the authority and the charm that made others tolerate her .
Vilan scratched his head, looking troubled, as he nodded in response .
“More importantly, I’m sorry to ask this of you so soon after your return, but I will have to dispatch you to the borderlands . ”
“If that is your bidding…”
“Not at all . The likes of me could never possibly contest the princess’ wisdom . ”
Pooh! Mira snorted as she puffed out her chest .
“Then let me explain to you the saint’s treasured sword, Koufushen . ”
“Sigh… What is that Koufushen?”
“It’s a play that’s been in vogue recently . A troupe from the east has recently been getting around, and it’s quite interesting . ”
Hearing Mira laugh dryly like that, Vilan sighed, unsure if this was really going to be alright .
In response, Mira pulled his ears and said, “listen,” then she brought him so close to her face that he could feel her breath .
Naturally, that sent Vilan’s heart going pitter-patter, but Mira did not seem to mind one bit as she boldly spoke of her ambitions .
“The reason the Red King was able to make a fool of me was because of their strategist, Carlion . But that strategist is currently in Germion Kingdom, so… As the saying goes, when the demon is away…”
“…Princess, I’ve pointed this time and time again, but you really need to do something about your choice of words— Uu!?”
Seeing Vilan about to give a sermon, the princess gave his ear another harsh tug .
“I’ve sent a messenger to the goblins to demand their surrender . Now, you’re going to take 30,000 soldiers with you and annex Elrain Kingdom’s various cities as you make your way toward the borders . ”
“Your demands for a surrender is a decoy then, I take it?”
“But of course . Although, it wouldn’t hurt if they did surrender . In that case, we could work together and take out Elrain Kingdom . But I doubt the likes of monsters could properly assess profits and losses, and even then it would be enough as long as you take out a few cities . With so many Kushain Believers, as long as you implement martial law, there shouldn’t be any problems keeping order . ”
“What if Elrain Kingdom shows up?”
“If they’re hostile, then denounce them for heretics who’ve sided with monsters . If they refuse to make a move and persist in observing you, then make them move . Take care not to give them an opening when you do . I’ve specifically picked out young soldiers for your army, so it should be easy to lead them around . ”
“I see you’ve thought this through, but you know, princess, treating war like a game simply because of your emotio— Uu!?”
Vilan groaned in pain as Mira pulled on his ears once more .
Mira protested with a pout . “I may be personally invested in this, but that doesn’t mean I’m treating it like a game . ”
When Vilan saw the tears in Mira’s eyes, he immediately panicked .
“M-My deepest apologies!”
One week later, Mira gave a bold proclamation toward the goblins as she dispatched her army .
When the spies in Cultidian got word that Vilan’s army was split in four and was now advancing toward the borders, they immediately went into a panic, trying to send word of this new intel back as soon as possible .
After Saint Mira saw the army off, she met with a lone adventurer in secret .
“Lift your face . You’re not the docile sort, are you?” Mira said .
“And that’s not how one would expect the saint to talk,” the plainly dressed female adventurer said .
Mira laughed . “I want some mice hunted . I take it you’re up to the task?”
Not a trace of that young girl’s face that Mira often showed to Vilan could be seen now . Saint Mira’s face was completely devoid of expression as she emanated a chill accompanied with a frightening composure .
“If it is your command . ”
“I’ll pay you as much as you want, so make those Red King bastards pay . ”
“With the power of the inverse moon’s shadow, so shall it be done . ”
As the female adventurer bowed, Mira smiled with satisfaction .
As Gi Zu left to recover his wounds, Gi Ba came to take his place . When the Goblin King heard that the Kushain Believers were en route to attack them, he decided to dispatch his army .
“It’s still better than isolating ourselves like this . ”
The goblins mobilized their entire forces toward Shirak Territory, but their wounds from the battle against the Order of the Blue Knights was yet to heal . Many of their soldiers were wounded still .
“If Elrain Kingdom attacks us from the south, we will be forced to retreat,” the Goblin King said .
When the people gathered at the war council heard that, they were shocked .
After all, they had yet to lose a single battle, and yet here was the king saying that they would have to abandon their territory .
Unfortunately, the concept of winning a battle yet losing the war was still too difficult for them to understand, but here in the south, merely winning a fight was meaningless if they could not suppress the enemy city .
For the goblins who did not understand even the concept of war prisoners, the workings of politics was yet too high a hurdle for them to overcome . To make things worse, even the Goblin King himself wasn’t particularly learned in the art of politics .
“But…” Gi Za wanted to say something, but in the end, he could not help but keep mum .
After all, he did not have any tricks up his sleeves that would allow them to overcome an army over ten times their size . At the very least, he did not have one that did not come with grave losses .
“Of course, I don’t intend to lose . ”
The crestfallen goblins raised their head at the king’s words .
“We haven’t lost just yet . We may be at a disadvantage, but I’m not about to just give up . ”
Then as if to brush away the depressing mood, the Goblin King declared that they would be building an encampment .
The goblins looked at each other in confusion .
The king spoke . “These lands are flat, so there’s nothing obstructing our enemies’ movement . That being the case, we’re going to change the land ourselves . ”
“Your Highness means to make a fortress?”
The Goblin King raised his brows for a moment, but in the next moment, he nodded and began to explain . Because of the lack of mages, the goblins would have to do most of the construction .
“It’s a battle against time!”
As the king declared that with resolve, the goblins kept their morale and they began constructing what could be essentially said their first defensive structure .
The members of the Red King had already predicted that the Kushain Believers would attack the goblins, but opinions on whether to attack or not were divided .
Saldin and the generals from the frontline were adamant about joining the fray . One reason was because they won the last battle without really doing anything, so dispatching the army wouldn’t take much preparation . Another reason was because getting rid of one force would make it more advantageous to them .
Either reason was sound; however, the civil officials did not agree .
They believed that since they’d won easily in the last battle, they should then focus their attention on conquering Pena . The goblins were not a priority . Moreover, the army of the Kushain Believers was massive, and its movements were not clear . None of the reasons they gave were convincing, but there was some logic behind them nonetheless .
That being said, there was another battle going on, a war only the intellects among them could see . For hidden behind the two options was actually a struggle for supremacy .
The clan leader, Brandika, felt like wincing as he watched that battle unfold . They had to send Carlion as a messenger to Germion Kingdom, so all the political work he normally took care of fell upon Brandika’s shoulders .
As Brandika yawned, the meeting continued, but there was no end in sight .
“Hey, Saldin,” Brandika said .
“Yes!” Saldin replied with glee, thinking that Brandika would choose his side .
“How many soldiers would you need to win?”
The meeting grew noisy, and the civil officials cried out .
But Brandika silenced the clamor with but a wave of his hand . Everyone in the meeting room knew full well just who Brandika was . As for those who didn’t, they probably thought he was the king himself .
“Just 10,000 soldiers! And I will surely bring back victory!”
Could they really win against both the Kushain Believers and the goblins with just that? Brandika asked himself .
Even if Saldin were to take most of the command, other commanders would still have to work under him to organize the army . Unfortunately, difficulties in management came with the territory of expanding an organization, and the Red King was no exception .
If he were to lead an army himself, he would need 5,000 elites and 10,000 peasants to win .
“You have a plan, I take it?”
“But, of course! I’m going to attack them while they’re attacking each other!” Saldin confidently declared, knocking his hands together as he laughed, but that confidence only lasted until he saw Brandika looking up at the ceiling, who was wondering to himself if he was the stupid one for asking .
As Brandika thought to himself, he remembered that Saldin was the super hands-on sort, and he wryly smiled . Cell had to leave with Carlion to serve as his escort, so he had no one else he could use but Saldin .
Speaking of which, Carlion did tell him that it was also important to help his commanders gain experience, so in the end, Brandika decided to agree .
“I got it . I’ll give you 10,000 soldiers . ”
“Alright! I knew you’d come around!”
Brandika silenced the civil officials with a stare, then he continued .
“But I’ll be heading to Pena . Saldin, you better not lose . Understand?”
In response to Brandika’s ferocious smile, Saldin puffed out his chest and replied affirmatively, then he asked to be dismissed to prepare his army sooner .
“…What a pain . When Carlion’s not around, everything gets annoying . Hurry up and come back already . ”
After the meeting ended, Brandika grumbled to himself as he scratched his red hair that was just like a lion’s mane .
“Hmm… An alliance, huh,” King Ashtal said .
“It as you say, Your Majesty,” Carlion replied .
“And what would that alliance bring my kingdom?”
“Prosperity, Your Majesty . Both to you and to us . ”
While King Ashtal entertained a messenger from the southern Elrain Kingdom, hushed voices exchanged in the backdrop .
“…I can’t believe they have the gall to show their faces like this . ”
“Good grief . How could they even think of coming here?”
The genius adviser, Carlion, pretended not to hear anything, while his escort and guard, Cell the Sword Dancer, sent them sharp glares, though in the end, she too said nothing .
Carlion inwardly laughed it off as he thought that it would only elate them were they to react . Despite having such thoughts, however, he kept a serious face as he faced King Ashtal .
“What do you intend to do?” King Ashtal asked .
“Currently, the Kushain Believers are waging a war against the monsters, but that will end soon, and when it does, they will turn their sights to unifying the south,” Carlion replied .
“Ho? It seems a big one has appeared . ”
Although King Ashtal has put on the years, his eyes were as sharp as ever . He once showed ferocity befitting that of a king who ruled a country of holy knights, but in the later years of his rule, he turned his focus to peace and became a wise ruler . Despite that his sharp eyes of discernment that came to be known as the King’s Majesty were as sharp as ever . It was such that a glance from him was enough to make people shake . Yet Carlion calmly received that gaze of his and responded with nothing more than a smile .
“Your Majesty is wise and insightful, so I’m sure you’ve already heard of our Red King’s strength . ”
“It is foolish to conquer the world with strength . ”
“We only intend to level the world with strength . After that we shall create a land of peace ruled by a virtuous king . ”
“And you dare claim that you possess such power?”
“Power is meant to be wielded, but I intend to serve my master with my schemes . ”
“I see . In that case, how will these schemes of yours, which you’ve woven for your master, bring prosperity to my kingdom?”
“First, we strike the heretics dead, then we could work together and turn our sights to the west . ”
That was blunt . Too blunt . King Ashtal could not help but narrow his eyes in response .
Gulland had indeed departed for the western region, but what was most in need of reinforcements was not the west but the south .
The chaotic state of the south due to the wars regardless of the goblins was indeed an issue King Ashtal could not ignore .
“You must be tired after having traveled such distance . Why don’t you take a rest for now? I will give my response the day after tomorrow . ”
Carlion and Cell bowed in response, then they withdrew to the rooms they were given .
As soon as they entered the room, Cell used her long elven ears to check if the vicinity .
“…There’s no one suspicious nearby,” Cell said .
“Not that there’s much we could do with just the two of us,” Carlion replied as he coughed .
“Don’t you think you should be more tense at times like this?” Cell suggested .
Carlion’s laid-back attitude was met with Cell’s sharp glare .
“…Or do you find it funny to see me so cautious?” Cell continued .
“N-No . I don’t have any such intentions . ”
As Carlion continued to cough, Cell sighed and sat on the first-class sofa .
“The clan leader asked me to escort you . If you’re unwell, then get some rest . ”
“I will . I will,” Carlion replied, but he showed no signs of going to bed .
When Cell saw that, she – in a rare display of anger – approached Carlion angrily .
“W-What’s the matter— Uwaah!?”
Then as if she were handling some light luggage, she pulled Carlion up and threw him on the bed .
“Sleep . Understand?”
“W-Why does it seem like you’re used to this!?”
“I have a younger brother back home . ”
“News to me . ”
“I didn’t think it was important . ”
At Cell’s aggressive appeals, Carlion finally slipped into bed .
“Do you get along well?”
“Somewhat…” Cell replied as she made a distant look .
Seeing that, Carlion wryly smiled and closed his eyes .
“Good night, big sis!” Carlion jested .
“You!” Cell was about to retort angrily, but after considering that she was dealing with a patient, she turned around and quietly sat on the sofa, then she checked the surroundings again .
“…Did he fall asleep?”
Cell approached the bed again to check Carlion’s countenance . In her eyes was a gentleness that she rarely showed .
“…What a pain . Looks like watching over someone isn’t such an easy job after all . ”
As Cell muttered that, she gently stroked Carlion’s pale face, then she went back to the sofa to keep guard .
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