Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 330

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Chapter 330

–Third Person POV–

Divine Nation of Altair – Capital: Alteria .

「Shoot as many arrows as possible . Don’t give them any time to set up their bows . 」

Cardinal Baghoof’s army starts attacking from the south .

At the same time, soldiers of other aligned cardinals are also attacking fiercely from other directions .

Wilhelmina watches silently .

At first, the 5000 Polpo soldiers she was leading were meant as support but they crumbled immediately in the face of Alteria’s guards and ran back to the headquarters .

「I apologize for not being of use . They were a bunch of weak soldiers . 」

「Not a big deal . I wasn’t expecting anything from Polpo soldiers to begin with . Just be patient and watch . 」

Baghoof smiles, not looking disappointed in the slightest .

Rather, you could say he felt relieved after seeing how weak the soldiers of Polpo were .

Even if Wilhelmina was to go crazy, there was no need to worry if her soldiers are that weak .

Wilhelmina dramatically pats down her chest and then turns behind her .

Zaphnes who was standing there nodded with his head lowered .

Since the Polpo soldiers were defeated so quickly in the first battle, they didn’t lose many of their numbers .

The fight continued day and night, with guards falling one after the other and towers burning down .

Alteria was a pretty solid fortress city, though it didn’t last long when faced with overwhelming numbers and attacks from all sides .

「The gate is down! Charge in!」

Siege soldiers finally break through the gate, allowing the cavalry and spearmen to rush in droves .

「It’s over . 」

Zaphnes mutters .

「Yeah, but look . Alteria’s guards are still resisting . 」

Looking where Wilhelmina was pointing, one could see the Alteria guards attempting to stop the surging tide of Baghoof’s soldiers .

「Death to apostates!」

「Die with the joy that you will return to G.o.d’s side!」

Despite being the lesser force and having their gates broken, they still maintained a strong will to fight .

They would aim for a simultaneous strike when they were skewered and some even fought with teeth and nails after losing their weapons .

「They must be some of the most devoted fanatics in Altair……」

「Like we can fight against an opponent like that . 」

Wilhelmina states plainly .

The defeat they suffered in the first battle was planned so they didn’t have to clash with those suicidal soldiers .

「Still, that’s as far as they go . Smoke signals have already been raised in the east and north . It looks like the guys over there broke through the gate too . 」

No matter how desperate they get, they can’t do anything when attacked from all sides .

Furthermore their method of attack, besides that of the core fanatic group, was just like the cardinal described so they couldn’t hide their confusion .

「This is where the real battle begins, a war without spears or bows . 」

「I’m counting on you my queen, all of us will fall apart if you mess up . 」

Wilhelmina mutters “when that happens, give up” before starting to make preparations .

The fanatical soldiers pursuing with a ready-to-die mindset eventually get annihilated, and the armies allied with Baghoof pour in through the gates from all sides towards the pillar of Alteria…… the temple of Altair .

The citizens take whatever tools they can use as weapons and rush out of the houses, only to stop in bewilderment when they see the same flag of Altair being waved by the enemy .

「Your Eminence? What is the meaning of this? What is going on?」

「The enemy…… where are the heathens…… huh?」

「Do not resist . If this fight is one where Altair displays his true will, then his faithful servants should just offer their prayers to him in their houses!」

Baghoof barks back and the citizens return to their houses after dropping their weapons with a troubled look on their faces .

「So all of these guys join the fight when another nation attacks . It gives me chills . 」

Wilhelmina doesn’t react to Zaphnes’s joking remark .

The army eventually reaches the temple of Altair―― which is so magnificent that it looks like a giant castle―― and stands in front .

The soldiers naturally come to a stop when they see the temple .

「From here on is the holy ground designated only for religious workers . 」

「I-if we step foot inside, we’ll go straight to h.e.l.l . 」

「Don’t point your spears at the temple! You’ll incur G.o.d’s wrath!」

「This is as far as you go . We’ll go alone from this point . 」

As if it was within expectations, Baghoof and the other cardinals were about to take a portion of soldiers to the temple…… and then it happened .

「You infidels . 」

A beautiful voice chimed in like the ring of a bell with clarity and force that seemed capable of traveling a long distance .

「Do you not fear Altair’s anger?」

From the top of the long staircase leading to the inside of the temple, a single palanquin is slowly descending .

That palanquin is decorated all in white and its bearers were also dressed in pure white outfits .

A thin veil of silk draped over the palanquin from the roof, preventing the face of the pa.s.senger from being seen .

That person was the one who governs all of Altair, the Pope .

「Y-Your Grace!?」

「Hiiiih!!」

The soldiers quickly throw down their weapons and kneel on the ground .

If one were to pay closer attention, it wasn’t the Pope who was speaking, rather it was the accompanying woman wearing a unique set of clothes .

The woman approaches the Pope, then nods respectfully before raising her beautiful voice again .

With the townspeople treating the Pope like the reincarnation of G.o.d, no one is allowed to hear his words, and so the shrine maiden is speaking on his behalf .

「Poor sinners, so you have been deceived by the apostates . Tremble in fear for turning back on G.o.d!」

The woman’s resounding voice pierces through the soldiers .

It caused the kneeling soldiers to begin shaking .

More denunciation is directed at the rebel army in a harsher tone by the shrine maiden .

「Cardinal Baghoof, why do you turn back on Altair? The only road awaiting apostates is one leading to an eternal h.e.l.l!」

The citizens who supposedly returned to their houses have come back out and are prostrating before the Pope .

Baghoof responds instantly .

「Nay! This humble servant remains obedient and faithful to Altair . I am only rising in revolt to the present Pope!」

The shrine maiden speaks even more firmly .

「That is the same thing, for Altair has descended to the living world in the Pope’s body! To rebel against the Pope is to rebel against G.o.d!」

Neither the soldiers nor the citizens speak a word, they remain still and strain their ears to listen carefully .

If Baghoof does not say the right things, he will likely be torn limb from limb by the citizens and his own soldiers .

Hiding the sweat dripping from his forehead, he responds again .

「Nay once again! How could the Pope be the embodiment of G.o.d? If he was almighty like Altair, then why did the mountain spout fire, why did our nation get blanketed by ash, why did us faithful believers get a.s.saulted by the devilish disease!? Everything must be karma from the Pope using Altair’s name in vain . 」

While both sides go back and forth, Zaphnes looks down and his shoulders twitch .

「Stupid, don’t laugh . It’s all over if he loses this debate, you know?」

Wilhelmina gives such a warning, yet she is also hiding her face with a hand fan .

「Fool, our hards.h.i.+ps are all tests from G.o.d! The power to reveal such plans to mere apostates belongs to G.o.d!」

As soon as the shrine maiden provided such a response, Baghoof’s eyes seemed to sparkle .

「If Altair is all-powerful, there is no need to explain anything to apostates! It just looks to me that the Pope doesn’t understand the truth from G.o.d!」

What he said may be his impatience showing from being in front of the rebel army or a slip of the tongue from having theology beaten into him at a young age .

As the shrine maiden listens again to the Pope’s words, the man presses the issue harder with his agenda .

「Woman, step forward . 」

「Yes . 」

One woman comes to the front from Baghoof’s side . She is wearing a priestess’s outfit .

「This priestess is a reward sent by the Pope . 」

Voices of unrest leak from the citizens .

「This woman who was given to me for my efforts in battle offered her body to me!」

「It was an order by the Pope-sama . To offer everything to Baghoof-sama……」

The shrine maiden’s face warps .

「The incarnation of G.o.d would send a woman to a believer!? Is such teaching acceptable!?」

The unrest spreads and the murmuring of the crowd gets louder .

Trying to fix the earlier mistake, the shrine maiden returns to the Pope’s palanquin .

「This is the proof that the present Pope has become a worldly-minded person and the temple has been reduced to a degenerate castle!」

「He would probably enjoy the woman normally . 」

「If he brought this up during peace times, he would be denounced as as immoral, though he is using it as a weapon right now . 」

Wilhelmina and Zaphnes whisper to each other .

Compared to Baghoof who is talking in rapid succession, the Pope side is doing more listening and can’t come up with a good response .

「We would not do something of that nature . You have no proof――――」

「You would not need proof if you were truly the reincarnation of G.o.d . Wouldn’t you just deliver your divine punishment on me!?」

The shrine maiden’s words would have raised their side’s majesty in a more serious setting, however they put their side in an overwhelming disadvantage in a debate .

Their side clearly seems to be cornered and everybody could tell Baghoof had the upper hand .

Baghoof finally reveals his trump card .

「G.o.d no longer favors the Pope! I now hold―― miracles in my hand!」

The man holds up a small bottle of liquid so every citizen can see .

「This is the special cure for the devilish disease, the fire pox! With this little bottle, I can heal the lives of those who are currently on the brink of death!」

The crowd lets out oohs and ahhs in awe .

Knowledge of such a medicine existing is nothing new to the central figures of Altair and a portion of feudal lords with excellent information networks, but this is definitely the first time the citizens and soldiers are hearing about this .

Fire pox has become so widespread in Altair that even infants are aware of how scary its effects are .

It’s such a terrifying disease that people fear it as the sigh of the devil, where anyone who gets infected become corpses and most medicine has no effect .

Everybody would jump at the opportunity to learn more about a wonder drug to such a disease .

「Just because you showed that fake drug, it doesn’t give you an excuse for apostasy . 」

Baghoof disregards the Pope’s denial and confidently calls forth several men and women .

「The medicine bestowed upon me by the Cardinal has saved both me and my husband . 」

「The Cardinal kindly gave me the medicine when I was about to rot away alone in the field . 」

After that, the two of them declare that they have pledged their lives to the G.o.d of Altair .

「Aah, so that’s why he saved the beggar who was dying by the roadside on the way here . 」

Wilhelmina was the only one who could hear Zaphnes .

「T-that is merely a miracle of the earth――」

「Then why is such a miracle in my hands as someone who has turned away from the Pope!? Not only is this proof that the current Pope is not G.o.d, it is evidence that he is a common human who hasn’t even received G.o.d’s favor . 」

Before anyone realized, Baghoof had already climbed the staircase and closed the distance between himself and the Pope .

「The Pope has no favor from G.o.d!」

「No, it’s because the Pope pretended to be G.o.d that we are suffering right now!」

「So the wars we’ve been fighting were not the will of G.o.d, but the Pope’s desire!」

The convenient shouting from the people push Baghoof’s back .

「This sword is……Altair’s true will!!」

「What are you going to do!?」

Baghoof takes the sword and swings down at the palanquin .

The shrine maiden who suddenly rushes out gets in the way, forcing the slash to be shallower and only cut the silk s.h.i.+elding the Pope’s face .

「Hiiiiih!!」

Appearing behind the torn fabric is a girl who looked slightly younger than Wilhelmina not old enough to be considered an adult .

Probably being faced with a sword for the first time, she panics and rolls of the palanquin in an attempt to run .

「Don’t point your blade at Her Grace!」

「G-get away! You’ll be punished! Waaah! Get away from me!!」

The shrine maiden chases after the fleeing girl and stands in front of Baghoof .

A crying girl trying to escape while being protected by a woman is the populace’s first impression of the reincarnation of G.o.d .

That was enough for the Pope to lose her divinity in the eyes of the citizens and soldiers .

「Have a good look! This is the true form of the Pope who pretended to be G.o.d!」

Baghoof takes a deep breath after making such a declaration .

「She’s a sinful girl who has led astray the citizens and defiled the name of Altair…… kill herrr!!」

A few seconds later, angry yelling erupts from all directions .

That was the signal for the end of the Pope .

「Your Grace, this way!」

「Shuala, take my hand! I can’t climb these stairs!」

The men acting as palanquin bearers form a wall, allowing themselves to be killed while the Pope and shrine maiden run away .

Baghoof doesn’t chase after them .

There was no chance for the girl and woman to escape now that everyone has turned into their enemy .

Focusing her emotionless eyes at the scene in front of her, Wilhelmina addresses Zaphnes .

「Do as we planned . 」

「Preparations are complete . 」

Evening .

「The Pope has been punished, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our G.o.d Altair――」

「We will continue to act as G.o.d’s faithful servants――」

Baghoof and the other cardinals are speaking to all the people of Altair .

The cardinals don’t want to destroy the country or the system of government .

They had to rea.s.sure the citizens and make them think the chaos has been resolved .

Laying in front of the temple are the dismembered and burned remains of a girl and woman .

The disfigured corpses were discovered on the street corner, perhaps due to the citizens’ anger from letting the Pope and shrine maiden escape .

「Until a new Pope has been decided, us cardinals will have to rule together . 」

「It would be difficult if all of us were on the same level . That’s why we must decide a head cardinal . 」

「Naturally there is no other except Baghoof-dono, though we will not allow for a dictators.h.i.+p . We will also hold power to keep him in check……」

Underneath the surface, a struggle for power has already begun .

「Cardinal Oddivial’s speech has ended . Then next I would like to give Her Majesty Wilhelmina a chance to speak as an allied nation . 」

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Wilhelmina inhales deeply as if to resolve herself .

n.o.body realized the use of “we” .

「We didn’t use our eyes nor did we know how to use our heads . Yet we were still able to fight on equal terms with large nations like Vandolea and Libatis . Then what do you think will happen if we take off our blindfolds? You all know the answer . We are more superior than those of other countries . 」

Hope returns to the minds of all people .

「Is that so? We’re more superior?」

「That must be true! We’ve lived all this time gritting our teeth and enduring! There’s no way we’ll lose to anybody else!」

Wilhelmina goes on after confirming their reactions .

「We have realized our misunderstanding . Now we have to correct it . I may be a single, diminutive woman, however I have absolute confidence that I will rule far better than those who simply go on and on about the name of their mighty G.o.d . 」

Wilhelmina takes a breather and looks at everyone’s faces . n.o.body is heckling anymore .

「Let us take back the country ourselves and make it a country for the people, a country for us . Now is the time to wake up!」

Wilhelmina shows off a smile suitable for her age .

「A people’s nation…… not a G.o.d’s nation, a nation for us……?」

「I don’t know what to do . 」

「But that person will surely show us the way . That’s the feeling I’m getting . 」

It was quiet at first, then slowly but surely the cheering grows louder until the earth started shaking .

Not much noise is coming from behind her anymore either .

The guards were listening to Wilhelmina’s speech . Only the cardinals and their followers were shouting hysterically .

Wilhelmina holds a hand up to control the swelling cheers .

「We have now taken off our blindfolds . And many enemies exist in front of our eyes . 」

Her thin white hand stretches toward the citizens .

「Ash continues to fall, disease still poses a threat . Vandolea and Libatis won’t let us wake up either . All of those things attempts to shut our eyes again . 」

「That’s right . When we get stronger, those guys from Vandolea won’t stay quiet!」

「What should we do about the fields smothered in ash……」

The populace collectively gulped .

「There is no need to worry . I will definitely bring you to victory . In order to do that, we need to unite, trust each other, and be courageous against the enemy . Maintain focus and fight! Fight until all our enemies are defeated!」

Zaphnes flies large flags separated into different colors on the stage .

Simple designs that anybody can draw are on three-colored flags .

「These three colors represent our beautiful land, all the citizens and our victory . This will be our new flag . 」

Zaphnes’s eyes seem to ask “is that so?”

Wilhelmina’s eyes answer with “like I know . ”

The ma.s.ses shout their loudest when they see those flags .

「Yeah…… we are strong! We won’t lose to n.o.body!」

「Uooooooh!! Bring on disease or enemy soldiers! We’ll defeat them all!」

「We will create a country for ourselves! Together with Wilhelmina-sama!」

The people cheer with wild enthusiasm . Those cheers only grow in intensity .

The volume of the cheers surpa.s.sed that of the initial jeering, and its force seemed to split the sky .

「Our first enemy are the ones who made us suffer! Fight! Destroy them!!」

「「「「Uooooooh!!」」」」

Moves are beginning to be made by the people . The bishops and their subordinates quickly get swallowed up by the populace .

Their own soldiers together with the citizens gather and engulf the town in a whirlpool of chaos .

Houses belonging to those of the church and their families get burned, statues of the G.o.d Altair get pulled down .

The cardinals at the back also get cornered by their own soldiers who are looking to dismember their former masters .

Baghoof already got skewered by dozens of spears and pinned against the wall .

Wilhelmina falls back inside the temple as she waves her hand .

Even though they could no longer see her, the citizens’ cheers don’t stop .

「……I could never have imagined this . 」

Wilhelmina replies to Zaphnes as he calls out to her .

「Was the climax in the middle because of Sakura?」

「It was difficult to send spies into Alteria . 」

Tens of thousands of people were sent . A hundred or two would be needed in order to utilize Sakura so that was impossible .

「Yeah…… it was the first time in my life that I thought women were frightening . 」

Zaphnes looks at Wilhelmina with an expression containing fear .

「While listening to the speech I felt an indescribable exaltation and frenzy wash over me . I’m talking about me, someone who knows all that is happening is fake, you know? Listening to each sentence one by one is enough to make you leak a smile too . 」

The words “It was like you were……” get spoken in an inaudible voice .

「Is that so?」

On the other hand, Wilhelmina’s response was short .

Before long the cardinals were all ma.s.sacred and the guards were extolling Wilhelmina with their spears raised .

A burning pa.s.sion resides in all their eyes . It’s only been a few hours prior that n.o.body knew who this woman was .

Composing himself again, Zaphnes returns to using his usual casual tone to speak with Wilhelmina .

「I still can’t believe you turned that storm of heckling into cheers . 」

「It’s easier to persuade an indignant opponent to your side than a calm one . Anger and pa.s.sion share the same height of emotion . 」

「So that’s why you got them upset in the beginning . 」

When Wilhelmina takes a step forward, Zaphnes instinctively takes a step back .

「Everything is going as planned…… no, it’s going better than expected . You’ve done a superb job in turning the entire country around . 」

「It was simpler than I thought . The exile of the Pope really lit the fire of change in the people’s hearts . I just fanned those flames and made the fire grow stronger . 」

「Still, to take a country with those fanatics and reduce it to this state with ease…… not to mention you’ve made them believe in you as their leader . I’ve never seen a woman…… no, a human like you . 」

Wilhelmina smirks, then tosses the bread on the table to Zaphnes .

「You’re a bread vendor . Between someone walking around and someone looking for meat, who would you sell to?」

「Of course the one walking around, right? How would recommending bread to someone looking for meat help?」

The queen smiles .

「Wrong, you would want to sell it to the guy looking for meat . If he was hungry and is looking for meat to eat, there is a high chance he would take the bread you offer him instead . On the other hand, the one walking around may have just finished his meal . 」

Wilhelmina continues when she sees Zaphnes not quite convinced .

「The reason they believed in G.o.d Altair to begin with is because they want to entrust themselves to an absolute being . Once I denied that absolute being, it was easy for me to insert myself in its place . Fanatics will jump at the foolish words of another just as quickly as they followed the first . 」

Wilhelmina tosses away the bread to signal the end of her idle chatter .

「The capital has been conquered, and now the region needs to be persuaded . Reorganize the soldiers brought by the cardinals . When you get ready, I’ll come around to persuade them . We will also implement disease countermeasures immediately . What will suppress the disease is not a hundred or so bottles of medicine, but thorough isolation . 」

「I’ll do so at once . The scale of Altair is not the same as that of Polpo though . Whatever we do, we don’t have enough money . 」

「We will borrow a large sum of money from the Stura merchants . They have fallen into hard times after all . They’ll put their last hopes on me . 」

Wilhelmina gives a final glance to the mangled corpses of the executed Pope and shrine maiden .

「Did it work?」

「Yeah, those bodies belong to different girls . No one would have thought the Pope was a young girl so one had to be gathered locally . Well, n.o.body will know with her face smashed and burned . 」

The former Pope was allowed to escape secretly under Wilhelmina’s instructions .

Meanwhile, the two dismembered and burned were taken during the chaos and became the poor sacrifices for this plan .

「They went north up the road . Libatis and Vandolea are both mortal enemy nations, so they would either run to Malt or……」

「There’s nothing left except Goldonia . 」

Wilhelmina’s eyes narrow until they become thin like strings .

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