This 𝓬ontent is taken from 𝐟𝐫𝗲𝗲𝘄𝗲𝗯𝗻𝐨𝘃𝗲𝐥.𝐜𝐨𝗺
Side Story Chapter 79
The national army’s camp in western Avalon was quiet because the enemies hadn’t shown any movements for several days.
“What in the world are they up to?” Ranger grumbled. It was bugging him very much.
“No suspicious movement has been detected in the castle on the mountain either.”
“Eighty percent of the rebel army is at the border, but the rest of them are real elite soldiers trained by Marquess Turtler himself… Are they trying to fight a war or not?” Ranger’s frown gradually deepened.
* * *
That was the conversation Ranger had with his subordinate that morning. The situation changed in the late afternoon.
Ranger’s aide barged into Ranger’s tent. “The enemy is moving!”
“What? Report in detail.”
“Some of the rebels are withdrawing. Only a few of them are retreating, but judging from how all of them are wearing expensive magic armor, they seem to be knights.”
“Do they have a problem in their headquarters or something?” Ranger asked.
“We haven’t been able to figure that out yet…”
“Assemble a squad. I’ll go there myself.”
“T-To the castle on the mountain, sir?”
Ranger nodded. Despite his aide’s surprise, he was acting rationally. The rebels had been acting like they were ready to start a full-scale war any minute, but then they stayed quiet for several days. After waiting for such a long time, the first thing that the rebels did was retreat, so it was natural to assume that they had a problem.
“I don’t need a lot. We need to climb up the mountain, so select around one hundred people,” Ranger instructed.
The aide was interrupted by new arrivals.
“There’s no need to do that. We just came from there.”
Ranger turned and stiffened. Cain was approaching, guarded by knights; a man wearing a robe was standing next to him.
“Did you say you come from the castle on the mountain, Sir Cain?”
“On your own?”
“He was with me.” Cain pointed at his robed companion.
Ranger frowned. He was no longer curious about the mysterious robed man because he was too preoccupied with the possibility of the peace they had enjoyed for the last few days. On a normal day, Ranger would have noticed how politely Cain treated the man; Cain was one of the most powerful people on the continent and he used both hands to gesture to the other man.
“Then you must know the reason behind their abnormal behavior, Sir Cain.” Ranger gave Cain a pointed look.
“Don’t try to talk your way out of this.”
“Since when did I do that?” Cain raised an eyebrow.
“You always come up with an excuse to operate on your own. You had a clear goal of finding His Majesty before, but you’re here in the west now. So I would appreciate it if you follow my command,” Ranger insisted. Regardless of all else, Ranger was in overall command of the western forces, although it was hard to determine whose rank was higher. Cain was the Emperor of Avalon’s First Knight while Ranger was the vice-commander of the Imperial Knights. That was why they had once talked casually, but now they tried to be civil and respectful to each other.
“Do you have any other excuses?” Ranger asked with a faint frown.
“Marquess Turtler is dead.”𝒻𝓇𝘦𝘦𝘸𝘦𝘣𝓃ℴ𝓋𝘦𝑙.𝒸ℴ𝑚
“Okay, Marquess Turtler is—” Ranger stopped speaking, his eyes bulging. “What did you say?”
“I said that Marquess Turtler is dead.”
“What the fu— Did you assassinate him or something, Sir Cain?”
Ranger could wrap his head around that; Cain de Harry was capable enough to do it.
“Unfortunately, that wasn’t me,” Cain answered.
“Then who in the world did it?”
“I don’t think that is important right now.” Cain held up his sword and pointed at the enemy camp. “Supposing it’s true, isn’t this the perfect opportunity to wipe out the rebels?”
“Their leader is dead, and they only just realized that. The rebels scrambled their elite knights to go back to their headquarters to verify it.”
“That camp over there is an ownerless mountain. Oh, their tents are on the plain, so maybe it’s an ownerless plain.”
Ranger opened and closed his mouth several times in confusion.
“Just like Cain said, this is a god-given opportunity,” his aide quickly whispered.
“But if this is a trap…”
The aide shrugged. “He’s not someone who would joke about something like this.”freewebnovel.(c)om
The aide was right. Unless Cain had gone senile, he was not someone who would make inappropriate jokes in a situation like this. Yet, the idea that several years of brutal warfare would come to an end so abruptly because of an unidentified assassin sat uneasily with Ranger.
“…Sir Cain, is there a possibility that this is a trap?” Ranger asked.
“I saw Marquess Turtler’s corpse with my own two eyes.”
“It could have been a fake…”
“It was real for sure. Do you really think I would fall for that kind of trick?” Cain raised an eyebrow.
And still, Ranger’s uneasiness was not quelled. It was inevitable because a commander’s orders carried a tremendous weight. Tens of thousands of soldiers and knights’ lives depended on Ranger, so one wrong judgment could result in the deaths of countless people representing Avalon’s future. No one would understand that crushing pressure unless they experienced it for themselves.
The mysterious man’s robe fluttered as he stepped forward.
“If you’re unsure about this, I’ll vouch for Cain too.”
Ranger gave him a bemused look.
“Two people are more reliable than one, right? Just relax; you can go ahead and start your operation.”
Ranger and the nearby knights looked at the man in disbelief.
‘I’ve heard this voice from somewhere…’ he tilted his head.
“Who are you, sir?” Ranger demanded.
“Me?” The man’s mouth, which was the only part that was not covered by his robe, curved into a grin. “If I had to put a name on myself… The person who loves this country more than anyone else.”
Ranger’s frown deepened.
* * *
Meanwhile, guests were arriving at the Palace of the Avalon Empire one after another. The first to arrive was from the Thran Kingdom, which was close to Avalon. Although all the countries were aware of Avalon’s lengthy civil war, every one of them had replied that they would send a congratulatory delegation.
One of their goals was to verify the Martial God’s return; if the news was correct, Avalon would be the only rival of the Hubalt Empire, which was officially the most powerful country on the continent. Therefore, there was a need to gain Avalon’s favor.
Besides, they had a firm belief that the rebels in Avalon would never attack their delegations. As the rebels were trying to overthrow the government, no good would come out of attacking foreign delegates since that would give the rebels one more enemy to deal with.
Really, they couldn’t even think about that possibility because of the measures taken by the Heaven’s Mind. The Emperor of Avalon put the Second Queen Consort in charge of this event. Surprisingly, she had announced that there would be no limit to the number of people in their delegations. Even though it was done because of the civil war in Avalon, it still came as a shock. It didn’t matter whether ten thousand, a hundred thousand, or a million people were in a delegation—so long as they were coming to celebrate the Martial God’s return, they would be welcomed. The Four Paladins of the Hubalt Empire could come to Avalon with an army of a million soldiers if they were part of their delegation; it was more than possible for them to start a war in the center of Arcadia.
In return, the Imperial Family of the Avalon Empire had made it clear that they were not going to take responsibility for rebel ambushes.
“It’s Operation ‘We’re not scared but don’t come if you’re scared.’ Hehehe.” Icarus giggled.
“You’re the same as ever, Your Majesty. I have a feeling I don’t have to worry about you.”
“I could say the same for you, Grand Duke Ulabis. But is it okay for you to come all the way out here like this?”
Icarus was worried for a good reason. Ulabis, the Flame Emperor, was one of the great Nine Stars of the continent and was also the husband of the empress of the Swallow Empire. However, he was also dealing with the civil war in the Swallow Empire.
Given the marriage between the Empress of Swallow and King of Thran, it had been expected that the two countries were going to be on good terms. Nevertheless, the result was exactly the opposite. Their cultures were the polar opposite of each other; the people of the Thran Kingdom had been taught that the people of the Swallow Empire were absolutely evil. Although the curricula had changed, the stigma didn’t disappear so easily.
Ulabis shrugged. “It’s not like the war stops because I’m there.”
“You should still try to persuade them since you’re the only hope for the people of the Thran Kingdom.”
“It looks like you’re too busy with your own civil war to be interested in foreign affairs, Your Majesty.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not really their hope anymore. They call me a traitor now.”
“A traitor? Not a hero that saved his country?”
“I’m far from a hero that saved his country.” Ulabis shook his head.
“But still, I don’t understand this drastic turn of events…” Icarus quietly trailed off.
Ulabis quickly took a look around the meeting room. Only he and Icarus were present, although, of course, he could feel many other presences given their two statuses. Those people were in the room to guard a member of the Imperial Family, so it was safe to say that their lips were permanently sealed. Nevertheless, Ulabis had to be careful since what he was about to tell her could never be known to the public.
-First of all, I must beg you for your understanding. Due to my circumstances, I have no choice but to use telepathy to talk to you.
Icarus flinched, but she nodded with a smile.
-I’ll cut to the chase. The conflict between the people of the Swallow Empire and Thran Kingdom is getting worse day by day, but I doubt—no, am certain that the Hubalt Empire is behind this.
Icarus just listened without responding. She picked up her teacup and took a sip, but she couldn’t hide her trembling fingers.
-That is why I visited Avalon in spite of all the risks. The Four Paladins hold the power in the Hubalt Empire, so I’m going to find evidence from them.
The trembling in Icarus’s fingers worsened. If anything went wrong, the Second Continental War was going to break out here in Avalon. She had accepted the possibility, but it wasn’t easy to maintain her composure when she heard someone affirm it.
‘I can trust His Majesty, right?
No matter how good a strategist Icarus was, one Absolute could render every plan she made moot. As a matter of fact, she had already experienced it herself. What would happen if Joshua wasn’t around once the Hubalt Empire finally revealed their greed? Icarus agonized and agonized, but the odds weren’t good.
-I felt like you should be aware of this…
Ulabis stood up. “Then I’ll head back, Your Majesty.”
“Feel free to tell me if you need anything, Grand Duke.”
“Thank you.” Ulabis bowed.
A storm was blowing across the entire continent.
1. The raw is 무주공산. It’s a four-character idiom that is similar to the English phrase ‘left for the taking’. ☜