We’ve finally made it, my friends.Chapter 39 - The Empire’s Crisis
Japan, Yamaguchi prefecture, prisoner-of-war camp
Special Class A Dragon Knight Reckmeyer of the Papaldia Empire's imperial oversight army learned to read Japanese to a certain degree after spending so much time reading Japanese newspapers.
The prisoner camp only got newspapers every once in a while; the one he was reading that day featured articles about Japan and the Papaldia Empire, as well as the latest announcements from the governments of other countries. After the Naval Battle of Fenn, the number of prisoners jumped up to 2,000, including someone who was aboard the 120-gun ship-of-the-line Pall, commanded from there, fought against Japan's warships, then was thrown out to sea when the Pall sunk: the empire's General Cius.
Reckmeyer was reading a newspaper, and General Cius was seated next to him.
It was a rather comical sight.
Reckmeyer just read silently. Depending on the severity of the news, his expression would become grim, his brow would scrunch up, sweat would trickle down his face, and his fingers would start to shake. This had happened only once before, but this time his face became pale.
"What is it? Reckmeyer, what's written there? Come on, tell me."
Having warred with Japan face to face and experienced with his body the might of the Japanese forces, General Cius had a bad premonition.
"Hooh… hooh… General Cius, stay calm and listen carefully."
"First, Japan attacked Altarus and wiped out all imperial forces stationed there. The Kingdom of Altarus was freed from the empire."
"I knew it… I expected that would happen."
"After reclaiming Altarus, they renovated Mu's base in Altarus and used it to launch an attack directly on the homeland."
"Goodness! Even the homeland? How did the empire respond? The homeland's defense is unparalleled."
"Right. The empire sent the main navy to face Japan's escort fleet, and, for Japan's aerial forces, they completed those wyvern overlords that were still being tested before, got them battle ready, and deployed them to fight in the air."
"So, what was the result?"
"…The main navy was annihilated, and the Esthirant base was destroyed by an attack from the air."
Cius was speechless; the damage far surpassed his predictions.
"…Even worse, they attacked the base and factories in Duro and wiped them out, too."
Sweat began to bead on Cius's forehead.
"Since the capital's defenses had been weakened, the empire recalled the governing board armies in all the territories. At the same time, Queen Lumiess of Altarus began instigating revolts. All the territories ended up revolting at the same time, and we lost control of them all."
"Preposterous!!! That's not something she could accomplish by herself, just because she's also from a country outside the civilized areas. Japan… they're far too strong! How did she do it?!"
"Finally, all the territories formed an alliance, declared war on the empire, and captured Arunie."
"That's not possible! Something's wrong there. There's no way those territories could defeat the empire!!!"
Cius had leaned all the way forward, his face and loud voice both betraying his fear.
"Yes, it says here that in the battle, the Kingdom of Rheem also fought against the empire," Reckmeyer replied calmly.
"At this rate, we're… we're done!!!"
General Cius and dragon knight Reckmeyer could only feel despair.
Japan, capital city Tokyo
Tokyo was the nucleus of Japan's economy and politics, a city crawling with 13,350,000 residents. Within the office of the prime minister, an important meeting was taking place to determine the fate of the Third Civilization superpower, the Papaldia Empire.
Attending the meeting were the prime minister, all the cabinet ministers and their executive staff, and other VIPs.
"We will now commence the council of war," the chairman declared.
Each person read the document that was placed on all of the desks.
"First, as written in the document, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a proposal regarding the war. From the very start, as I believe everyone here knows, Japan has taken the position of no compromise."
The attendees all nodded.
"We have demanded the extradition of all suspects involved in the executions of Japanese citizens from the Papaldia Empire, and we do not plan to budge on this. But, according to Ambassador Asada's information, the one who gave the execution order was a woman from the imperial family named Remille. Therefore, the arrest of this 'Remille' is of utmost importance."
People began to whisper to one another.
"However, wouldn't that give fuel to anti-Japanese sentiments? If they continue building up power, they might hold on to those feelings until one day they can once again threaten Japan," offered the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.
"You're not wrong. However, we have already built up both good relations with the antiempire coalition, and hostility with the empire. Using trade sanctions, we can keep them in a barely-living state where we neither destroy them nor completely let them flourish. In other words, we do not allow them to regain their national power."
"How exactly would we achieve that? Also, doesn't that method fail to address the concerns I raised?"
"Indeed, this would fundamentally not resolve the issue of anti-Japanese sentiments spreading in the empire."
"……Don't tell me… Are you going to manipulate the news coverage?"
"Rather than controlling the news, we'll put the empire in a situation where they will voluntarily adopt a pro-Japanese mentality in order to avoid further damage."
"Can you expound?"
"As far as the specifics of the plan go, there is too much ground to cover, so I shall leave the exact details for another day. The crux of the plan is that Kyeos, the Papaldia Empire's Third Foreign Affairs Department Head, has conveyed to us his intent to orchestrate a coup d'état in the near future. At present, the empire is fending off the coalition army; the Kingdom of Rheem, a 'civilized country,' has joined the war on the side of the coalition; and our SDF has shaved down their armed forces to a fraction of their original number. They are simply unable to properly defend themselves. What Kyeos wishes to accomplish with the coup d'état is to imprison the emperor, take Remille captive and hand her over to us, and facilitate reconciliation with our country. In exchange, he wants us to halt the invasion of the coalition army. If the coup succeeds, he is willing to cooperate fully with our demands. In this manner, there is no need for us to lift a finger, and they will willingly become pro-Japanese.
"As far as we're concerned, we can prop Kyeos up as the new leader and have the emperor banned from interfering with government or political matters. Measures will be taken to prevent anyone from breeding resentment against us. Even if there is a regime change and the new government tries to demonize Japan, these measures should help guide them away from being our enemy. Regarding the emperor, we'll have him abdicate all of his authority. While we do intend to investigate his involvement in the killing of our people, as stated previously, we do not have any plans to hold him in Japan."
"…I have a quick question," the Minister of Finance declared, raising his hand.
"Have you decided how to handle the conditions of their surrender?"
"If Kyeos's coup succeeds, which is an overly optimistic supposition, we've been considering resource acquisition rights. However, we're not clear on where they're getting their resources or what exactly they are, so we planned to wait until after the war to negotiate."
"Wouldn't it be better to decide on it beforehand?"
"In reality, we simply do not have enough information on the empire, so it's truly impossible to decide now. If you're worried that they will renege on the conditions after the war is over, all we have to do is bring up the massacre of our people to force them to comply."
The representatives of Japan continued discussing how to handle the empire after the war.
Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant, Kyeos's mansion
"All right… everything is ready."
The early sun shined into Kyeos's home, a slight wind causing the curtains to flutter. Kyeos peeked outside. The sky was a clear blue, without a single cloud in sight, and little birds twittered musically. It was a refreshing morning. The wildlife approached this day as they would any other, assuming it would end without anything odd happening. However, to the Papaldia Empire's leaders and citizens, this would be a historic day. If Kyeos was successful, he would be one of the few remaining leaders in the empire; if he failed, his entire family would be executed. But then again, if he failed, the whole empire would probably get destroyed anyway.
(Will it work?)
There were dozens of people in the royal guard who had defected to his side. They would be able to capture the emperor. He had a few hundred collaborators in the military who would interrupt the imperial council and confine all the councilors there as well. Unfortunately, he was severely lacking in actual military strength; if armed forces seriously attempted to rescue the emperor and the councilors, the coup would fail.
As soon as the councilors were restrained, he would immediately contact Japan; the military and the citizens needed to see this result with their own eyes. The plan had already been discussed extensively with Japan, so this had to work. In addition, he had 500 covert agents under his command from a country outside the civilized areas, the Jeemy Kingdom. If there were any complications, he would make good use of them.
Kyeos gave the order via his magical communicator. Having made his resolve, he exited the room.
Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant, imperial council hall
"What the hell is the military doing?! Not only did they allow all seventy-two territories to rebel, they even lost Arunie in the north!!!"
All the councilors had been gathered. These lawmakers, who were in charge of the practical measures necessary to administrate the country, were in disarray over this unprecedented crisis, the first of its kind since the founding of the empire. The majority of the empire's main navy was destroyed, and whatever remaining fleet could be cobbled together would be too feeble to oppose Japan. Two of their three largest military ground bases were also demolished.
Furthermore, due to the huge rebellion taking place in their territories, the empire had lost a lot of land, taking away their access to many farmlands. Without that food, the empire's food stores would plummet, and, in the worst case, there could possibly be a famine. All of these dire problems caused severe headaches.
Supreme Commander Arde, now constantly on the receiving end of blame and scorn, began reciting his update while his stomach started to ache.
"The army is currently being reorganized, as soon as that finishes—"
"When!!! When will you be finished?!" the Agriculture Department Head interrupted. "We need to take back the farmlands as soon as possible! At this rate… we only have six months! Six months before we run out of food! If we ration the distribution of food, we can squeeze out a bit more time, but at best that's still only about eight months!!! Can't we call for a temporary ceasefire with Japan? Just long enough for us to put down the rebellions in our food-producing territories?"
Of course not. It would be suicide to inform Japan of the problems their country was facing. There was no adversary so idiotic that they would stay their hand when their opponent showed a moment of weakness.
Arde responded calmly, despite his anger at the Agriculture Department Head's stupidity. "I will discuss it with the First Foreign Affairs Department Head, but I do not believe it is possible."
"Then take back our farmlands! They're just barbarians, they can't have much military strength! Why haven't you already done so?!" he raged.
"It would require exhausting everything we currently have to take back the farmlands. However… when Arunie fell, it wasn't just from the seventy-three country alliance, the Kingdom of Rheem's army was also mixed in with them. To fight another country in the civilized areas, even we require a certain amount of preparation to be successful."
"Indeed, the documents from your department did mention that. Rheem's involvement… those little traitors! They certainly wasted no time in double-crossing us!!!"
The venue erupted with heated, disordered shouting. Suddenly, the hall's doors burst open and seventy soldiers surged into the room. The soldiers all had muskets, ones that were standard-issue for Papaldia's infantry.
"What is this? What do you think you're doing?!" Arde yelled angrily.
"No one move! We have just now seized control of this location! If you choose not to cooperate, we will not guarantee your safety!!!" shouted the soldier who appeared to be the leader.
"During this country's greatest crisis, what do you think you're playing at, some kind of revolution?! Without a leader, our country can do nothing!!! Are you trying to destroy the Papaldia Empire?!" Arde exclaimed. The hall became quiet at his words.
"The ones who put us in this crisis were all of you, right here. We have come here to save our beloved Papaldia Empire from collapse!"
"You imbeciles! Shutting down the government accomplishes nothing! Our enemies are already at our front door! If you have a concrete, alternative proposal, then let's hear it! If you have nothing, then you are truly the most irredeemable imbeciles!!!"
The soldier snorted and turned to look at Arde with a smirk. "We do have a plan! Sir Kyeos has already made a deal with Japan. As long as we make some changes within the empire… specifically in the government, then the empire will be spared."
The hall exploded with shouting.
"What utter foolishness!!! Appeasing Japan is the least of our worries! Unless we deal with the coalition army of seventy-three countries, our country has no future anyway! Even if what you say somehow works out, our country has already declared that it will eradicate Japan and every last one of its citizens. It's absolutely unthinkable for them to protect us!!!"
"It's clear that you all know even less about Japan than I do. I hope you've realized that whatever information is communicated upwards, it gets simplified, and our superiors always twist it in the way most convenient for their own benefit. Well, whatever. Question time is now over. You'd better not move."
"……You will regret this."
The imperial council hall was suppressed by 3rd Foreign Affairs Department Head Kyeos's forces without any blood being shed.
Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant, imperial palace
"……Kyeos, what is the meaning of this?!"
Emperor Ludius glared at Kyeos while surrounded by five brawny soldiers.
"Your Grace… For the sake of the empire, I implore you, do not move," Kyeos stated, staring back into Ludius's eyes.
"Hm… a revolution. How impudent. Even if you do this, the people will not come. Soon, the army will be here to part your head from your neck," Ludius declared to Kyeos, intent on projecting his dignity to the bitter end.
"I… will end the war with Japan. I will also save the empire from the rebel army. I can no longer rely on you to accomplish this."
"What do you plan to do with us?"
"Your Grace, you will no longer be allowed to participate in any government affairs. The imperial family and all the ceremony that surrounds it will be preserved, but they will never have any power over the government. Rather, they will be forbidden from holding any power."
"Hmph! The imperial family raised this country into a superpower! Without the imperial family, the Papaldia Empire cannot survive!!!"
"If things were left to you, Japan, the coalition army, and the Kingdom of Rheem would, in the very near future, erase the empire from this world. If I take power, I will absolutely establish peace with Japan and all the other countries, and the empire will live on, I promise you that. After the reconciliation, the imperial family's strong voice will still be required. Your Grace, at that time, I will give myself over to your judgment."
This explanation was met with silence.
"……What about Remille?"
"Mistress Remille caused the Japanese massacre, so… she will receive judgment from Japan. She gave the order to execute those civilians right in front of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. There is no way to save her. It would not be an exaggeration to say that peace with Japan hinges entirely on handing Mistress Remille over to them."
"…Is that so…"
While Emperor Ludius and Kyeos were talking, armed soldiers ran into the room, all out of breath. As soon as they gathered themselves, they gave a salute to Kyeos.
"What is it?"
Sensing from the soldiers' panic that there was an unexpected problem, Kyeos quickly sought answers.
"We failed to… capture Mistress Remille! As soon as we arrived at her mansion, we found out that she had already fled!"
Kyeos turned pale, as if all the blood had drained out of his body.
"This—! This can't be! We need to find and capture her, now!!!"
Seeing peace with Japan move out of reach right before his eyes, the gears in Kyeos's head churned furiously.
(……This is really bad, the deal with Japan… I need to report to them that all conditions have been met, then search for Remille while holding back the rebel army. Shit! That goddamn woman! Why does she keep giving me so much work!!!"
"Hahaha… Kyeos, it is not good to assume that reality will always play out the way you want. I look forward to seeing how you make use of the empire."
On this day, Emperor Ludius lost the reins to the Papaldia Empire. Kyeos, telling Japan that the revolution was proceeding smoothly, found himself now holding those reins.
Third Civilization, Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant, a certain area
"Haah, haah, haah……"
The sun had already set; under the moonlight, in the shadows of an alley, a single woman ran. Her body was soaked with sweat, and her legs were all scratched up from the numerous times she had tripped and fallen. As soon as she had hidden herself in the alley, soldiers rushed down the main street. They all yelled the same thing:
"Find her! Find her at all costs!!!"
Everyone in the capital was looking for her. She knew they had to be.
"Kh!!! Why do I… have to go through this!!!"
She already couldn't stand the fact that she was on the run like this. However, if she were caught… it would mean her death. Her terror drove her past her limits.
Back at her mansion, one of the maids who got along with her sensed danger and prepared clothes that were easy to move in, some money, a knife, and told her to run. If it weren't for that maid, she would have already been captured.
"Hey, girl, what're you doing in a place like this? The nights are dangerous, you know."
She jumped at the voice that came from behind her, she felt her heart rate increase exponentially. Remille slowly turned to look at the source of the voice. With only the light of the moon, she could barely make out a male face.
"……A night cleaner?"
There was a man in dirty clothes standing in front of her. The man continued speaking.
"If you keep going down that alley, you'll pass in front of the landbird's pen. That bird is ornery, though, so it'll probably spit on you."
What a fortuitous discovery. First, she would kill this man who saw her, then she would steal the landbird and escape on its back. Since she would be able to travel much more quickly than on foot, she might be able to seek asylum in a neighboring country. But for now, she needed to deal with the person before her…
Remille was part of the imperial family, so she had also been trained in hand-to-hand fighting techniques. She would take him down with a surprise attack. She wordlessly approached the man. Her right hand reached for the knife on the belt behind her and slowly unsheathed it. Just a bit closer…
She stepped in hard with her left foot and swung her knife as fast as she could, intending to slash the man's throat with her attack. …It didn't feel like she had cut anything. Her strike cut through the empty air.
"You… You bitch! What was that for!!!" the man screamed, trying to intimidate Remille.
Remille stepped in with her right foot and cut at the man again.
Her knife had once again missed. In an instant, the man had wrapped his hand around Remille's left wrist and sunk his fist into her side.
The man's attack was powerful, easily blowing her away, and she tumbled hard on the ground.
……!!! She couldn't get up!!!
"What is it?! What's going on?!"
The loud voices and violent sounds of the scuffle caused a number of soldiers to come running to investigate.
Remille desperately willed her body to move, but she still couldn't stand. The man headed over to the soldiers.
"My name is Cyrgaya, a temp worker in charge of cleaning up the port. This woman suddenly attacked me out of nowhere. If I wasn't trained in self-defense, I would've died!"
The soldiers all stared at her unblinkingly. As they compared her face to a paper they held in their hands, their expressions gradually changed from suspicion to astonishment.
"Re… Remille! Capture her at once! It's Remille!!!"
The soldiers moved quickly and restrained her. The commanding officer who ordered Remille's capture looked over at Cyrgaya.
"Well done! Umm, your name was…"
"Yes, well done, Cyrgaya! This woman is the criminal responsible for endangering our country, we've been looking for her. I'm sure we'll all get promoted for this. As the person who found her, I bet Kyeos, the temporary government's head of state, will personally reward you as well."
"Really?! The current head of state?!"
Kyeos had finally taken Remille into custody. Having had the good fortune of finding Remille, Cyrgaya would later be awarded an honorary position in the military by other military officers. It wasn't quite as prestigious as his friend's position, former Imperial Navy Vice-Admiral Balus, but Cyrgaya was content to receive the post.
Later in life, he would go on to publish many books, among which My Lucky Life would become a bestseller.
Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant, imperial council conference room
Having dethroned the emperor, Kyeos was now doing his work in a conference room in the imperial council hall. The most pressing issue was how to deal with the anti-Papaldia coalition army closing in on the holy city of Parneus, a city in the region just north of the imperial capital Esthirant.
"So, can you drive off the enemy army?"
The former Supreme Commander of the imperial military who was currently under house arrest, Arde, asked contemptuously.
"I may have a trick up my sleeve," Kyeos shot back, smiling fearlessly.
The 73-country coalition army marched south from Arunie to the holy city of Parneus, intending on capturing it. The emissary from the Kingdom of Rheem, Karma, chatted with the commander of the coalition army, Meego, while they marched.
"Don't you think we're overextending by trying to take another city?" Commander Meego asked, worried. He was from the former territory of Caus.
"What are you saying! The empire is weak right now. There won't be a better chance."
"But we can't surprise them this time. Even the empire would be cautious after losing a city. They're surely consolidating their forces. Even with a hundred and fifty Rheem wyverns, it will be a tough battle."
Karma's forehead wrinkled. "……It's true, their dragons are far stronger than ours, but, as far as manpower goes, our side currently has the advantage. We can throw more soldiers into the battle than they can. Even if we must sacrifice many men, the Papaldia Empire should weaken further after another attack."
"Why are you so impatient with our offensive?"
"You people understand nothing. As long as you get your countries back, you're satisfied with that. We are looking beyond the war. The world is going to change when all this is over! Japan's influence is not limited to just the Third Civilization. Consider that any country outside the civilized areas with its hands on technology from Japan could now suddenly become a real threat to a superpower. Not only has a country that is technologically superior to the Holy Mirishial Empire appeared on the outskirts of the Third Civilization, but any country can also dramatically elevate their technology as easily as visiting a bookstore. By buttering up Japan and improving our technology, as well as weakening a country with as much potential as the Papaldia Empire as much as we can, the Kingdom of Rheem can turn into a dominant power!!!"
"I see…" Meego responded, only half understanding.
The magical communicator from the Kingdom of Rheem flashed with a red light. Karma answered the device with a puzzled look.
"……What?! This can't be! Parneus is right before our eyes!!!"
Something had shocked him greatly.
"But, even still… Yes, I understand. That said, their response time was far too quick…… Yes, I will leave the investigation to you."
He put down the device and turned to Meego. He made no effort to hide his frustration.
"The march has been canceled…!"
"?! Even though you're the one who wanted to march all this way? Why?"
"There's been a coup d'état in Esthirant, and the emperor has been deposed. The new, temporary government is suing for peace with Japan, and they have agreed. Japan is also calling for the coalition to accept a ceasefire. Currently, no one wants to defy Japan's will. The Kingdom of Rheem has decided to stop the march and also withdraw from the city of Arunie."
The same day, following the recommendation of the Japanese government, the 73-country alliance as well as the Kingdom of Rheem ended their march into the Papaldia Empire within sight of the holy city of Parneus. They also evacuated from the city of Arunie.
Papaldia Empire, imperial capital Esthirant
How many months had it been since he had last stepped foot in this country…
After so long, these men in suits were once again visiting the imperial capital of the Papaldia Empire as a delegation formed to facilitate the reconciliation between Japan and Papaldia. Among their number was Ambassador Asada, who had once made every effort to establish diplomatic ties with the empire.
The delegation was of course here to assist with and lay the groundwork for the reconciliation, but they also had the duty of transporting the main perpetrator behind the massacre of Japanese citizens within the Kingdom of Fenn, Remille, to Japan. In order to verify that they had not captured a body double, Asada had to perform an in-person interview with her. He was being escorted by a number of police officers to a special imperial prison.
The garden outside the special prison had short grass and various small birds singing. At first glance, it was an idyllic scene. However, inside the building it was dark and gloomy, since it was built such that not much light could get in.
Asada descended down the damp staircase. The quiet hallway echoed ominously with the sound of footsteps. Eventually, they arrived in front of a cell. The bars were fashioned from sturdy iron and it had a stone floor; there were no furnishings inside whatsoever. The stones were so cold that a typical Japanese person wouldn't be able to stand even a single night in this cell.
Inside the cell, there was a single woman wearing an iron collar around her neck with weights attached to her limbs who glared at Ambassador Asada. Asada took a single look at the woman then turned to the police officers.
Asada, holding every possible card. Remille, exposed and disgraced. After many months, their first conversation was about to begin.
— — Chapter 40