Several days after they had gained total control of Madress, Elgar’s force came leisurely down into the castle to cheers from civilians and soldiers alike. There was likely a strong sentiment that Grohl had been better than Wilm, and that Grohl’s son would not be so unjust. That was why men and women of all ages lined up and cried huzzah as he passed. Elgar responded with a wave, though he felt it was unbearable.
“Irvan… Do you know what I am thinking right now?”
“By your will. What you are thinking —and this is my best guess, being that we too were chased out of our homes— is that people’s hearts are fickle.”
“These same people cheered for my father’s execution as if it was a blessing. I shall never forget that scene. Do any of them even remember it, I wonder?”
Elgar’s expression was dark.
“It is a desperate struggle to live day by day for them. That much doesn’t change no matter the continent.”
“Yeah… you don’t need to say that again. I’m just grumbling.”
After Elgar breathed a tired sigh, he once more masked himself in a smile.
When the time for the audience came, Elgar sat upon his throne flanked by Irvan and Noel. Cynthia, Riglette, and Nejj of the Red Circle Army lined up to his left. On his right stood those military, naval, and civil officials who served him; among them many faces that he missed as well as Perius and Leue. Elgar had no idea why they were there. Cynthia and Riglette aside, everyone had opposed South Coimbra. As a result, there were occasional hostile glares at the pair.
The divide between north and south has only widened. I need to create peace here somehow. Father too, must have had some troubles like these.
Elgar looked down on the traitor kneeling before him with the memory of his late father’s suffering in mind. Tied, on the ground, and pressed by the spears of the guards was the former viceroy: Wilm Grambull. He scowled at Elgar, Leue, and Riglette with a mortifying expression. It seemed he still had that much willpower remaining.
“It has been a while, Wilm.”
“Elgar! You bastard, I spared you out of pity and this is how you repay my kindness!?”
“Just what tone do you think you can use, even though you’re a traitor? You really are unequaled in that brazenness, though it looks like you’re only at half strength.”
Riglette then proceeded to drive her foot into his back.
“Gh… R-riglette, to think that you would not only bore of your duties with the military police, but also sell your soul to a traitor and abandon your father! Such a sin warrants only death!!”
“Uhuhu, I’d sell anything to take you down. I needed, needed, to see you make that face so much that I couldn’t stand it. This is the end, so why don’t you scream some more? If you cry, every detail will be recorded in its full pitiful state in the annals of history.”
“A bastard like you…!”
“Oh, and I’ll put down that you managed to lose Madress in only two days. The proud, strong walls of Madress in only two days! It is an unprecedented, unparalleled accomplishment is it not? True proof of your incompetence.”
“S-silence!! If that traitor wasn’t here, it wouldn’t have happened!”
Riglette rained insults on Wilm, “You can surely see what position you’re in. That is exactly how you became a commander, and a viceroy. I’ll let the name Wilm live on forever as a symbol of incompetence in military leadership. Oh, but alas, as your former daughter, I might just die of embarrassment. Look, if you know any shame at all, bite your tongue off right now and commit suicide. Come on, hurry up and die.”
Wilm himself was shaking in a rage, almost bursting a vein.
“Y-you cur! How much will you mock me!?!?”
“Good, good, that’s it. That’s the face I wanted to see. Aaaah, I might die of pleasure!”
Riglette held down her mouth to restrain the rising laughter. Shivering there for a moment, she then turned to Noel.
“Uhuhu, it looks like being ecstatic for too long is bad for my health. Hey, did you know that, Captain Noel?”
“I might not mind, but, uh… it looks like everyone’s drawing back a bit, so it just might be for the best if you stop making that face, don’t you think?”
“Ufufufuaueehehe!¡! I don’t care about that. Hey, look, this shitty worm looks remorseful!¡ I really can’t get enough. It’s at the point where I want to commemorate this with a painting! Could somebody please summon an artist to the hall, I wonder!? I know, since this is the end, why don’t you say something too?”
Noel had wanted to chide Riglette, but she had been unable to stem the flow of words gushing out of her mouth. Having forced his way to the front, Leue stood, mouth taut, scowling, his eyes cast aside.
“Why are you wagging your tail for this brat, Leue!? Do you know what you’ve done!? What awaits you is a ruin like mine! How could you not realize this!?”
Leue finally turned to face the indignant Wilm, “I… will acknowledge that; however, I want to do what little I can for my country. Even if it means I must be destroyed. That is my sole atonement.”
“You jest! If you bend the knee to these… people now, you will only further useless infighting! How can you not notice!? Do you think it will end with this!?!?”
“The one who lit the coals was you… father. At the very least, the late Viceroy Grohl had the people in mind. You lost sight of your roots in your ambition. Against all advice, you went on that fruitless mission, and now all that’s left is this mess.”
“I am not possessed by mere self interest! That expedition will be our road to wealth!”
“I do not agree.”
“In the first place, do you think that the empire, that His Majesty Amil will let things be as they are now!?” Wilm spewed vehemently, “It might not be soon, but a large punitive force will come! In the end all you’ve done is call down the ravages of war! You helpless fools!”
At a signal from Elgar, the guards prodded Wilm once more with their spears.
“That’s enough, guard your tongue. You’re the loser. Wilm, your sins are truly nigh-impossible to forgive, you bastard. Following Amil’s foolish plan you burdened the people with heavy taxes, and burdened them more with hard labour. You neglected infectious disease and hunger in the name of producing armaments, and you ignored your obligations as a statesman. What has befallen you now is only your just desserts. Can you not even take your punishment with honour?”
“Silence, boy! All you want is revenge for Grohl, you bastard! Do you think you can manage the country with just that!?”
“It’s probably over now that I’ve heard that from you. Did it feel good to sit upon the throne of my father after betraying him and the people?”
“That fool Gaddis was deceived by you, and so I could forgive leaving him alive. He still had the important job of incurring the wrath of the surviving people. I think I’ll calm those people now by killing you. That blood will be the cornerstone of a reunified Coimbra.”
Gaddis had not been left alive out of compassion. The north was in shambles and rebuilding it would still take quite some time. Until it was repaired, they needed a scapegoat. That duty had been left to Gaddis; in one sense, it was a fate worse than death, but Gaddis couldn’t notice that with his failing mental health. He likely even lacked the will to die. Elgar would milk every last drop of the man’s soul for the good of Coimbra. Wilm, however, would die. He was absolutely going to die. Rebellion would only end with his life. His blood would tie the province back together and end the uprising of the Red Circle Army. Above all, there was no way Elgar could allow a once trusted retainer who had betrayed his father to live. Wilm would die.
“W-wait. No, just wait! I have lead ten thousand men. I will be useful in the war with the empire. Killing me will paint your rebellion as nothing more than revenge.”
Wilm had become polite and instantly transitioned into begging for his life. His intention to merely save himself was transparent, eliciting wry smiles from the surrounding soldiers and retainers. They were watching the final days of the man who was once engrossed in his leadership of Coimbra as viceroy.
“So what? I won’t listen to your nonsense and begging, you bastard.”
“You can use me like Gaddis. I’ve only acted with Coimbra in mind. I just made a mistake. By no means did I betray your father out of self interest. I swear on the Sun God. Please think this through rationally. I can be killed at any time!”
“So I say why not just kill you now? Do you have any questions?”
“Silence, dog! It is shameful that you were viceroy even for a second! Know you that my father met his death with honour that day!? Someone take this dog to the execution square!!”
Elgar signaled to his guards to force Wilm up. He didn’t want to see or hear him any more. Honestly, Elgar wanted the whole family dead, but doing so would also implicate Riglette so Wilm would be where the retribution ended. It would even serve as proof that it wasn’t mere revenge.
“W-wait! Please wait! I have a good relationship with the viceroy of Ribeldam. You gain from keeping me alive. Young master, this is where you should make use of me for the betterment of Coimbra. I can be used to ensure a peaceful rule, and without growing new resentments. That’s right, tolerance is an important trait for a viceroy! If you can’t even make use of people, the revival of Coimbra is…”
Noel approached him as he violently struggled, speaking, “Hey, you should give up now. There probably isn’t a single ally for you in Madress. People need to learn when to give up.”
“S-shut your mouth, fiend! Young master, I worked only for Coimbra! It wasn’t out of self-interest that I betrayed Grohl! You… unhand me! There is no reason I should die with shame!”
“It’s getting so bad it’s good. I just found that a little amusing,” Noel quietly leaked under her breath.
In all honesty, Noel thought it’d be most amusing for Leue to be down there with Wilm, but she knew right away that such a thing was too much at the moment. Doing so would not end well, and it would dampen the mood of all those nearby. All that Noel knew was that Wilm should have been killed on the spot. If Elgar spared him, Noel would split his head.
“Unhand me you fools! I am the viceroy! Do you bastards know what will happen to you for this!?!? Don’t touch me!”
Wilm resisted intensely to the end, but after beating him a few times, the spear-men were able to force him outside. Elgar and the rest followed to the same square in which Grohl had met his end. The people pressed from all sides to see just as they once had before. Wilm was pelted with stones as his head was placed on the chopping block. Elgar despaired a little at the sight of the completely unchanged situation.
Noel was the executioner. Naturally, bashing his skull with a hammer was too barbaric and so Elgar had given Noel his sword to use. She had twirled it around as if to acclimate herself to a longsword. After the crowd went astir with the realization that she was the fiend, a cheer erupted. She was horrible to her enemies, but a source strength to allies, it seemed.
Elgar closed in to give Wilm his final words, “The others of house Grambull will not be touched. Die in peace.”
“To… think that things would be just as they were with Grohl. Hehe, just where did I go wrong? Could it be that betraying Lord Grohl was the mistake? Or was it betting on Lord Amil? I was waiting for a glorious future, and I certainly got a glimpse of the sun. Just why did that happen, I wonder.”
“No clue. It could be just a run of bad luck. Such is the way of the world; it can’t be helped.”
Wilm finally gave a resigned smile after hearing Noel speak from the dais.
“Luck… is it? I should have taken you in after all. Who would have thought that you could do so much to thwart me. You’re really an eyesore to the end, girl.”
“Ahaha, you didn’t like me from the start. That’s pretty harsh considering you never spoke to me.”
“I had a bad premonition: that you would be my downfall. Thought I’d get rid of you quickly.”
“I see. The truth is that I’ve wanted to crush your skull the whole time. Since you always got in my way. Things probably would have gone better if I’d just gotten rid of you quickly.”
“Hehe, so it was mutual? Well then, it looks like you won in the end. Too bad.”
Wilm, calmer, shut both eyes.
“It should be about time to get this over with, Noel.”
“That’s true. Then, I’ll kill him shortly.”
“Young master… this probably isn’t a good time to say this, but please, take care of…”
“Do it, Noel!”
Noel’s sword cleaved through Wilm’s neck even as Elgar gave his order. With a spurt of blood, the head rolled into the bucket they had prepared for it. Such was the sad end of the man who had betrayed his viceroy and usurped his throne.
“The traitor is dead!”
“Long live Lord Elgar!”
“Remember Lord Grohl!”
“Long live Coimbra! Huzzah!!”
The empty cheers washed over Elgar. He didn’t like it in truth, but he had to maintain his appearance. The plebeians had high expectations for their new leader, and he couldn’t let them down.
My revenge is… complete. Gaddis is captured; Wilm is dead; the traitors are no more.
He didn’t feel as elated as he thought. He thought that something more would well up in him, but nothing of the sort occurred. The crowd had erupted in cheers as if the damn holding them back had just collapsed. As their strength grew, so darkened Elgar’s thoughts. Turning to Noel, he saw her flourishing the blade and wiping off the blood.
“With this, will my father rejoice? Shall my mother rest in peace? Was this… really the right thing to do?”
“You chose this for yourself, so don’t be bothered by it. He was the only person who had to die. He absolutely would have done something horrible if you’d left him alive. I’d bet all my treasures on it.”
Noel returned his blade, placing it back in its scabbard.
“Yeah… that’s true. It’s just as you’ve said.”
“And, see, we’ve still got a lot to do. You have to give it your all, you know.”
Noel gave Elgar a pat on the back and he nodded, and turned to walk towards the castle. En route, he passed Riglette and Leue, who was looking up to the sky to suppress his feelings. Riglette, on the other hand, was smiling so happily that tears were streaming down her face.
Once everyone had confirmed Wilm’s execution, they gathered again in the conference room. There were many things that needed to be done, but might there have been some things he should have kept his hands off of?
“What is our stance on the local lords?”
“Those lords who publicly opposed us, I assume. They will be unlikely to oppose further if their social standing is protected. Even those land holders related to Wilm should be overlooked, as I’m sure you know, though we should change some heads to ensure stability.”
“All right, I’ll leave the adjustments to you, Irvan. Take appropriate action after consulting Perius. Threaten opposition with the fate of Wilm.”
The news of his conquering Coimbra would likely spread quickly throughout the nation, and though there were likely many people who would withhold judgement due to uncertainty, if they resisted, they had soldiers to face. Not a noble was willing to face that to show loyalty to the empire, and they were highly likely to stay complacent if aid was provided.
“Your will be done. Lord Elgar, we must first put the army in order now that the Red Circle Army’s objective has been achieved. I believe that we should allow those who wish to return to their villages to do so to increase the general manpower. More importantly, we should restructure the military as a first priority.”
After Irvan, the recently surrendered Peruis gave advice of his own, “Appoint a governor to the northern region to focus on administration. If possible, I would like someone who knows the situation well.”
Elgar was making full use of every South Coimbran official and officer. There wasn’t enough time to start a meaningless political purge. Every capable man would be used to exhaustion. Coimbra could never be saved any other way. To set a calm precedent, all useful personnel were gathered.
“Okay, we’ll leave behind those we need to keep the peace, and have the militiamen sent home. The Red Circle Army shall disband, but it’s spirit shall live on for an eternity in its banner. Irvan, pay them as fairly as we can; they need enough to survive.”
The reunified Coimbran banner boasted the Coimbran scales over the Red Circle as a symbol of the overthrow of a tyrant.
“By your will.”
“Young mast- Lord Elgar. Please allow me to ask a simple question. Just why does the Red Circle Army have so much funding? The north is a destitute land with no way of raising such funds. Just how did you do it?”
“One day I’ll let you know, but it is not something I can speak of right now. Is it not enough that we have the money to spare the people?”
Dubious of that kind of an explanation, Perius stepped down. It most certainly wasn’t the time for such an enquiry.
“I understand. However, please hear me out about calming the situation. Our mission of reviving Coimbra must surely have been shared by Lord Grohl as well.”
“Yes… I know.”
Elgar could do nothing more than answer vaguely. If the truth came out, Perius would be indignant. That money had come from the profits of distributing censugrass in the enemy provinces; funds gained by luring their neighbours into misfortune. An upright man like Perius would require a lot of time to come to terms with such a thing. On top of that, they did not have the surplus required to dispose of their stores of censugrass as it had already become an important source of income. The farmers cultivating it for money had also approved. Irvan’s words came to mind: censugrass is taboo; those who use it or grow it will never rest easy. What awaits them is hell. Are you really resolved for that?
Irvan and his adherents had informed them of the plant and its cultivation methods, but had not raised a hand to assist the actual labour. It seemed they knew what happened to those in contact with it, and how it was bad for not only the users, but also the farmers.
Either way, it must be done away with, but not just yet. It will be impossible to revive Coimbra without the funds.
After a moment, Elgar mustered up some words to drive away the image of ruin in his mind, “The governor of the northern region shall be Nejj. I’ll ensure you have experienced advisors, so I expect you to fully devote yourself to this task.”
“Eh? I, I am!?”
“That’s right. All you need to do is listen to the civil officials and work for the sake of the people. If it’s you, I believe that the northerners will be able to sense the change. Naturally, I will provide you with as much support as I can.”
Nejj seemed indecisive, but Elgar nodded as he observed an unprecedentedly serious expression. He had set him on a road of suffering, but Elgar was sure that Nejj could handle it. Elgar would have preferred someone as competent as Perius, but there was much opposition to placing a southerner in charge there. There was also the fact that entrusting things to one who had served under Gaddis was unacceptable.
“As for the south, we should be able to relieve the frustration by lowering taxes and increasing charity. If they can tell we aren’t conscripting unnecessary soldiers, they likely won’t rebel.”
“Okay, I will leave that to you, Perius, considering you probably know the situation here best. You are free to do as you deem fit.”
“Now then, Lord Elgar,” Irvan enquired about Elgar’s future position, “With the fall of the two capitals, I believe we can safely say that Coimbra has reunited. What do you plan to do henceforth, Lord Elgar? Do you intend to bring order to the plebeians?”
Previously, Elgar had been titled as the supreme commander of the Red Circle Army, but there was no longer any need for that. Irvan wanted to know if Elgar would take up his place as a king to direct his subjects, or if he would create an entirely new system.
“For the moment, I will operate as the representative of the unified Coimbra. As for what comes next, we will have to consult with the Gembite administration. It is likely that they wish to fight the empire alongside we who rose against them. Furthermore, despite their declaration of independence, they have yet to form a new kingdom.”
Naturally, they were not going to remain in the empire. There wasn’t even a hair left on Elgar’s head associated with the Wardka family, but he wasn’t in the mood to found a new dynasty. Before the uprising, Elgar had heard the basics of their plans from a messenger. Either way, if he worried about that before securing Coimbra itself, he would only be counting his chickens before they hatched. No longer did he have the time to gather information as before. Things had also managed to end much faster than anticipated. Gemb had the initiative, but that much couldn’t be helped as far as Elgar was concerned.
“Understood. Then, we should dispatch a messenger to inform Lord Siden of Gemb about the reunification and liberation of Coimbra. Their own war is likely coming to a climax around now, too.”
Reports had arrived about the ferocity with which Gemb fought to retake Longstorm. Isolated and alone, Longstorm had been unable to fend them off, losing fortresses and cities, even apparently pushed right to the capital. Conversely, Giv seemed to be outnumbered, but details were scarce.
Noel had looked like she wanted to join in, and eventually cut in by raising a hand, “Um, do you have a moment?”
“What is it Noel?”
“Yup, well, aren’t you forgetting something important?”
“What is it you are so concerned about? Don’t hold back, and tell me what you think.”
“Okay then, can you lend me five thousand men again? I’ll just quickly strike the Baharan army. Wilm’s reinforcements should already be en route.”
“Please wait, Sir Noel! They should withdraw now that their objective is lost, and Wilm is executed. It isn’t even too late to send scouts to confirm the situation. We don’t need to fight any more than absolutely necessary. More importantly, our men will fatigue from battle!” declared Irvan.
Elgar supported the opinion, though, “Baharans are famously heroic, so they are sure to come. There’s no way they’ll leave after a single battle. They might aim to take some weakened district as a foothold. If we wish to prevent that, I believe an ambush would be most appropriate.”
Noel pointed out that they had nothing to lose if there was nobody to fight when they went.
“Then I will lead my adherents in the ambush. Please allow me to do it because Noel Corps is already exhausted after the capture of Madress!”
Irvan struck his desk for emphasis, then he turned to Elgar to appeal with his gaze. It was obvious what he wanted to say. If Noel was allowed to move too much, it would cause friction within the reunited Coimbra. Her corps had taken control of Evear in the north, and Madress in the south. Not only was she an upstart, but her military achievements were skyrocketing along with her popularity with the regular troops and the plebeians. Elgar already knew of some soldiers who thought her more suitable for command than himself. Irvan was trying to tell him that if he wanted to win Barbas over too, he would have to go himself; that Elgar could not overlook any more than that.
“We’re fine, so it’s totally okay. Everyone’s ready to go with lots of energy from the sun.”
“This is rude and I apologise for it, but you don’t have the right to decide. Lord Elgar, you are the leader of the reunified Coimbra. In you rests the authority; not in I, nor in Sir Noel. Please hand down the correct judgement!”
Elgar made up his mind at Irvan’s strong insistence.
“I understand. This time as well, I’ll leave things to Noel. Take the men and supplies you need and go. Is there anything else we should be wary of?”
“Let’s see… well the Ribeldam navy might be close, so we should be a little wary of that. I don’t think it’s much of a threat, though. Why not see if you can leave it to Leue?”
“Leue? Wouldn’t that be rather dangerous?”
Elgar turned to face Leue. He didn’t expressly state that he was worried about betrayal, but considering the man’s father was killed by him, thinking so was only natural.
“It’s okay. Not like he could betray us easily this time, anyway. And it seems like he’s good with ships. I’m sure he’ll work hard to regain his honour. If you won’t trust him now, you probably won’t ever make use of him.”
Certainly, it would be unthinkable for Leue to turn to Ribeldam right after betraying his own father. If he did, those family members he had finally saved would all be executed. While he likely harboured no loyalty to Elgar, he seemed the type to protect his duty. Above all, his soldiers were yet unharmed.
“I see, he certainly is a fit for the situation. Then let’s do everything as you’ve suggested. Now then, when will you depart for the front?”
“I was thinking we’d leave tomorrow at dawn. There’s a good spot for ambush.”
“I understand. With that we have set our policy. Noel will assault the Baharan army, and Leue will face the Ribeldam navy. This meeting is now adjourned! I expect each and every one of you to pour out everything in service to the reunified Coimbra!”
Once everyone had departed, only Elgar and Irvan remained in the conference hall. Doubt and anger swirled in his eyes.
“Lord Elgar. Why… do you give Sir Noel such status? I understand that you two are good friends, but there are already those among the men who think that Sir Noel is more suited for leadership than you. If you don’t make your position clear now, you won’t be able to rule the unified Coimbra well!”
“Are you saying that you don’t trust her?”
“That is irrelevant. I am not saying that you should appoint me instead. I am simply stating the need for balance among the merits of your retainers. Surely, Sir Noel is an unparalleled warrior; however, it won’t be viewed kindly by the others if you give her preferential treatment. I think there will be some who would begin to feel rebellious if things continue this way for Noel. Coimbra is represented by scales, and I only ask that you weigh this decision impartially.”
Elgar knew that well, and nodded. He knew that if he continued to follow Noel’s advice so much that civil and military officials would likely begin to feel resentful; most of them from the south, disliking the northern Noel as always. He didn’t think it had happened yet, but a long history could not be resolved in a single night. The leader of the reunified Coimbra sought the ability to resolve that and bring everyone in step by step, but…
“I will entrust it to Noel this time as well. My father went to his death because he trusted Wilm’s slander and distanced himself from her. I have no intention of falling into the same rut.”
“Am I slandering her in self interest now!? Has not the Ir sect brought you fortune, technology, and life!? Do you doubt us even now!?”
“It is true I have relied on you. That is why I shall reward you greatly, but Noel will not be rejected. I have zero intent to get in Noel’s way.”
“Lord Elgar… please tell me, please tell me why you are so willing to be influenced by Noel?”
“Because I’d be satisfied even if trusting her led to my ruin,” Elgar declared with finality,
“Even if you lot are polite to my face and kill me in my sleep. Noel has saved me from death and I will be content with whatever results from my faith in her. I shall accept my fate.”
Elgar placed his faith in her like the plebeians did in the sun, and the members of the Ir sect put their faith in their god: the girl who had saved him once, and then continued to fight even after being cast aside by his father. He put his faith in Noel Bosheit: the one who had held onto an old promise and returned to him once more.
I accidentally typed His Majesty Befnam from muscle memory instead of Amil. Also, the original Japanese doesn’t have Elgar milking Gaddis, but it has him even using the marrow of his bones. I decided to throw in an English idiom to smooth things out. In the Japanese, Wilm was telling Elgar to do something for/to Coimbra, and the verb got cut off with his head, but in English we don’t order our sentences like that, so I changed it up. Hopefully the author didn’t want him to be about to say “ruin Coimbra” or anything like that.
Operation minimal edit continues as always. Hopefully I don’t mess too much up. Dr. MIA continues to live up to his name, and your humble translator is fully responsible for all the errors in this chapter.