Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「The End of Salma Kingdom」
Eastern border of Slama Kingdom, the Branier territory.
The territory originally was a part of Nozan Kingdom, but seventy years ago, it was awarded to the Branier family for their patriarch spearheading the Salma eastern expansion.
Since then, the Branier family was awarded a noble title and tasked with governing the border territory for generations.
In the center of the territory sat an unusual castle. Before the territory had been conquered by Salma Kingdom, the previous lord had resided in a luxurious mansion. However, that mansion had been converted into its current form, complete with a massive defensive wall usually reserved for forts.
In one of the offices within the residence…… an elderly man restlessly waited at his large wooden work desk.
His stout body snugly fit within the lavish chair, while his receding gray hair, sharp eyes, deep wrinkles, and mustache only added to its intimidating figure.
This man was Margrave Wendelin De Branier.
Unlike the nobility of the capital, Margrave Branier possessed the aura of a knight or warrior.
Originally, Salma Kingdom’s borders were once constantly contested by Nozan Kingdom, Delfuento Kingdom, and what is nowadays the Hiruku theocracy, which had been once known as the Arthus Kingdom…… While all of those countries coveted the large and plentiful region, having a military ruler like him govern the land usually kept them at bay.
Still, the circumstances of the neighboring countries changed about a hundred years ago when the power of the Arthus Kingdom was transferred from the King to the Pope of the Hiruku church.
Back then, the Pope used his holy knights to conquer the holy city, and the Arthus Kingdom vanished from the maps when the kingdom’s last king officially transferred power to the church.
The Pope back then had advocated for “Peace among the people”.
After that, where the Arthus Kingdom repeatedly crossed the borders and invaded the other countries, the pope spent his life establishing new borderlines and from that point onward all invasions suddenly ceased.
Despite the unilaterally imposed border, none of the neighboring countries dared to oppose the Hiruku Theocracy because the country had become the center of the most widespread religion on the Continent and was home to the Pope.
The conflict between the three countries took center stage, but Salma Kingdom’s eastern expansion was the last major invasion, the great wars decade spanning wars were reduced to sporadic fights.
One reason was that the Hiruku Theocracy became a rather affluent country once it had been freed from expanses of constant warring.
Witnessing the upturn of the Theocracy’s fortunes sparked a sense of crisis within the other countries, so they began enacting policies that would safeguard their national security.
The nobility of Salma Kingdom left the task of defending the border to the Branier family and pursued power within the Kingdom itself.
As a result, the nobility that had been fundamental to the protection of the country directed their efforts towards gaining the King’s favor and the pleasures of life, it became a rarity for them to protect the border territories.
There was no denying that the establishment of the Hiruku Theocracy calmed the strife between its neighboring nations, bringing peace to the region, but doubts remain about it bringing peace to the people.
Although the nobility lived comfortable lives, the common man was burdened by the cost of their luxurious lifestyles. It couldn’t be said that they lived rich lives.
“If the country falls into chao
s, the capital’s nobles might be too late to respond……”
Margrave Branier spoke in the otherwise empty room and looked towards the ceiling as he mulled over these facts.
The recent incidents in his territory were bothering him.
First, there were the sightings mentioned in the reports.
Monsters that had never been seen before had been spotted along the Kingdom’s borders, the witnesses catching sight of them crossing the Uiru river after the creatures left the elven forest of Rouen.
Then there were the reports that one of those very monsters had been seen chasing after an unknown armed force.
In order to gain a hold of the situation, Branier had organized a search party for the monsters and the mysterious armed force.
The soldiers that had conducted the search encountered deformed, two-headed spider-human hybrids. Four of those deformed monsters had been found in the territory and while the platoons suffered heavy casualties, they still managed to defeat them.
The fact that even one of those creatures matched a platoon in terms of strength, and the direction they appeared from, had been enough for him to send messengers to Larisa.
Nozan Kingdom was also a possible target… with those monsters likely chasing some official through his territory, chances were that some kind of tragedy had already occurred inside that Kingdom, so Margrave Barnier had decided to send scouts to the Kingdom.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that whatever report they returned with would determine the fate of Branier’s territory.
Still, all that was still in the future.
It would take at least three days for the scouts to reach the capital of Nozan, and five days for the scouts to reach Salma’s. The return trip would probably take even longer.
Each party had been given a “bird”, so the actual report shouldn’t take twice as long as the trip there.
However, only being capable of waiting was an irritating prospect for Margrave Branier.
“Depending on the situation in Larisa, I may need to broker an alliance with Nozan.”
The Margrave rose from his chair and looked towards the map hanging on a nearby wall when he heard footsteps approaching from outside the room.
He’d expected the usual knock that should have preceded an entry, but it never came because the door was suddenly thrown open and a familiar face rushed into the room.
“Excuse my rowdiness, Wendelin-sama!”
The women who rushed into the room was none other than Branier’s personal assistant.
A foreboding feeling overtook the margrave’s mind as it was rather unusual for her to enter his office unannounced and she was never one to panic.
In fact, he could not even think of even one situation which would cause her to act in her current manner.
The scouts had only left for the capital three days ago.
It was a bit too soon for a report to arrive…… that was the thought crossing Margrave Brianier’s mind as he noticed of the person behind his assistant.
It was a young soldier dressed in the traditional uniform of messengers.
While the messenger was one of his own, before Margrave Brainier could open his mouth, the soldier closed his eyes and began shouting his message.
“The capital city of Larisa is currently besieged by a large number of mysterious undead! Their exact numbers are unknown, but it’s expected to be at least two hundred thousand! The King requests that the brave Margrave send reinforcements!”
With his message delivered, the let out an audible exhale before sucking in a large volume of air.
The content of his message was overwhelming……
“What did you say!!?”
Margrave Brainier’s eyes bulged and the veins in his forehead began to pulse as he tried to gain confirmation from the messenger.
The capital was threatened by two hundred thousand undead…… it was a situation where anyone would ask for confirmation, but even a hardened veteran would’ve been unable to provide a coherent answer in the face of the Margrave’s current intimidating figure.
Even if the undead spontaneously began cropping up in above-average numbers, two hundred thousand of them suddenly appearing defied common sense.
There was a historical precedent that some corpses left on old battlegrounds would occasionally rise as undead, but their numbers rarely exceeded the hundreds, let allow thousands.
To begin with, the numbers just didn’t add up. In this world, when two forces engaged in territorial dispute, they would prepare an average of two thousand troops.
“What type of undead are these two hundred thousand composed of?”
Even though Branier had broken out in a cold sweat, he forced himself to ask the questions that needed to be asked.
The reports on the spider-human monsters suggested that they might be some kind of undead, given their rotten human halves and that their bodies disintegrate upon being slain.
It was the worst case scenario if two hundred thousand of those spider-human monsters were besieging the capital. Every human nation would be at risk of being destroyed if that was the case.
“According to the messenger from the capital, the majority of the horde were armored undead soldiers, while there were a few spider monsters mixed among their ranks!”
The margrave let out a relieved sigh as the worst case situation had been avoided, however, it was only a temporary comfort as their numbers still remained.
While the contents of the report could be confusing and improbable to most listeners, a certain legend was brought to the forefront of Margrave Branier’s mind.
“It can’t be…… ‘Hades’? But, the legends say he was destroyed by the empire.”
Once upon a time, the undead were mere servants to a legendary monster that wreaked havoc across the empire’s territory…… it was said his undead army exceed ten thousand.
Margrave Branier, shook his head to cease such thoughts.
Now wasn’t the time to look for a cause, there was a situation that had to be dealt with.
“…… By the way, if you came from Larisa, haven’t you arrived too early?”
When the margrave asked for an explanation, it was his assistant, not the messenger, who replied.
“I was informed of the matter earlier. Our scouts came across the King’s messenger seeking reinforcements as they traveled towards the capital. The messenger is the only one who returned, while the rest of the party went ahead to conduct reconnaissance. The messenger from the capital will be entering the territory shortly.”
Although she spoke quickly, the Margrave nodded his head as his assistant seemed to have regained her composure.
He started to summarize the information in his mind and tried to plan out his next move.
“Realistically speaking, it’s impossible for reinforcements to reach the capital in time…… we may have to abandoned the capital all together, but that can’t be helped.”
The young soldier was shocked by the Margrave’s words.
Still, he kept his mouth shut as he understood that he wasn’t in a position to voice his opinion.
The Margrave raised an eyebrow at his behavior, before explaining his decision to assistant one point at a time.
“There is little our forces can do against two hundred thousand undead. Even if the capital engages in siege warfare, that’s not a number of enemies that can simply be worn down. Then there’s the distance and time. Assuming I deploy a massive number of reinforcements, it will take days before they arrive……”
The Margrave paused for a moment and looked at the map hanging behind him.
“It would take seven days for infantry, ten if you include preparation time.”
The assistant followed up the Margrave’s words.
The Margrave nodded in agreement.
The capital also sat in a large plain, making it impossible for a small army to fight a larger army there. Luring the enemy into the Uiri River and having the current sweep them away was a more plausible course of action.
However, it was hard to say for certain if that would work.
The enemy was undead, not human, so their behavior was bound to be different.
It was unknown if the current would have any effect on an army of two hundred thousand undead. This was hardly a situation where one could be optimistic.
If the spotted spider-human monsters had been scouts, then it was only a matter of time before the army set its sights on his territory.
Margrave Branier began preparing contingencies in case of such an event while he gave his assistant instructions.
“Send a message to the fort along the Uiru river. If they come across a unit of undead, abandon the fort and withdraw to the capital. Every available weapon in the territory should be gathered here. Inform every settlement that any crop that is ready for harvest should be brought here, effective immediately.”
The assistant was busy writing down the Margrave’s instruction on a corner of a document when another soldier entered the room.
“Milord, the bird from the Nozan messengers returned! This is the report.”
The soldier who had thrown open the office door saluted the Margrave before walking forward to present him with a small parchment.
“Birds” were one of the fastest means of communication in this world, but due to their natural homing instincts they could only send messages one way. Furthermore, it took time and effort to train the birds as carriers, making it impossible for them to become the normal means of communication.
“A report from the Nozan group? So soon.”
Even though its arrival added on to today’s surprises, Margrave Branier received the slip of paper and glanced over it.
The Margrave’s expression changed as he read the few sentences written there.
The assistant narrowed her eyes when she saw the Margrave’s strange behavior, who, detecting her curiosity, handed her the parchment so she could read it for herself.
As she received the message and scanned the contents of the report, Branier began rubbing his temple with his index finger.
“Apparently, the capital of Nozan Kingdom had already been attacked.”
Margrave Branier calmly nodded as she spoke the report aloud.
He’d expected as much, but then it was the rest of the report that had him wiping the cold sweat from his neck with the back of his hand.
Just what in the world is happening in this region?
“Innumerable sets of burnt armor were scattered across the plain outside the city walls. While one of the gates was destroyed, the city itself only suffered minimal damage, and restoration efforts are already underway.”
Though the Margrave’s expression remained claim, the joy in her voice at discovering a potential way out of this nightmare couldn’t be hidden.
Learning that a breakthrough had been made somewhere offered a sliver of hope for their own crisis.
“Was it just like the attack on Larisa? We can’t be sure about the scale, but if that was the case then Nozan Kingdom managed to strive off destruction.”
However, once she finished analyzing the situation from an objective point of view, she looked up towards her lord.
Even though he understood what she was getting at, the Margrave’s expression had become bitter.
If the Branier territory was unable to stop undead invasion, the two hundred thousand undead would overrun and destroy the region before traveling northwards and attacking the forces of Nozan Kingdom again.
Still, this also meant that there was a possibly upside for the inhabitants of the Branier territory.
The Nozan Kingdom and the feudal lords of the Branier territory had often clashed with one another, but the last thing they would have wanted was a large undead invasion, making them open to a temporary alliance.
After all, it was literally impossible to negotiate with this kind of enemy.
Even if an alliance couldn’t be formed, they might have been willing to help alleviate the worst of the invasion out of sheer self-preservation. Although, with the current situation…… it would be much better for Nozan if the Branier territory was wiped off the map.
In the worst case scenario, Nozan was confident in their countermeasures against the undead. If that was the case, they would most likely reject any pleas for aid from the Branier territory.
Without their support, the Branier house would be left to fend off the two hundred thousand undead alone.
The very same territory which had once belonged to Nozan Kingdom, before it had been conquered during an invasion.
All the Nozan Kingdom had to do was wait until they were defeated and wipe out the undead, essentially reconquering the territory with relative ease.
No, they would come into possession of the entire Salma Kingdom, since Larisa would have been destroyed at that point.
The capital of Salma Kingdom was a port city, so the nobility might be able to escape via ship, but even if they return, they would lack the soldiers and power necessary to oppose the Nozan Kingdom.
Though he tried to form countermeasures once more, the Margrave sighed after imagining the dim future.
“Even if I do that, nothing will happen unless I act. I’ll personally have to act as a messenger to the Nozan Kingdom’s capital. If we can’t join hands then everything will be lost, and the people will before forced to evacuate. We need to make the necessary preparation, time is of the essence.”
Margrave Branier looked towards the ceiling to shake off his fatigue, before turning to his assistant and giving instructions.
“When I depart as messenger, you and the Knight commander shall lead in my place. The two messengers here will follow your orders. She makes the decisions, understood? ……Salma Kingdom might not even be on the map by this time next year. Whether or not the Branier territory survives rest on the shoulders of everyone here.”
The two messengers could only gulp audibly as they listened to the Margrave.
“I’ll be off.”
With a brief send-off, Margrave Branier grabbed his favorite cloak and briskly left the office.