Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 544

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Chapter 544: Road to Kingdom ① Time to Decide

「――yes.」

An answer without a moment of hesitation.

I nod.

「Strange. Did I say anything to you? Maybe I forgot.」

「You didn’t give any instructions. It is my own judgement.」

Leopolt responds immediately.

I grab Leopolt by the collar and pull him to the ground just as fast as his reply.

「Guh……」

I step on his chest as he tries to get up.

Leopolt is somewhat capable of using martial arts, but he doesn’t have the strength or the skill to recover from this situation.

Celia and Myla are frozen with their hips raised.

「How dare you act on your own. Did you think you would be forgiven by being forthright?」

I apply weight on my foot.

It would be simple to crush him to death like this.

「Ga……gh……will you listen……to what I have to say?」

I ease up my foot ever so slightly, enough for air to enter his lungs.

「I didn’t tell you specifically not to talk.」

Leopolt stays down and forms sentences in a strained but decisive manner.

「The attack on the capital, the attack on the hunting party, everything was orchestrated by me. The spreading of Lord Hardlett’s inept.i.tude was also me.」

If that’s all he has to say, I can stomp my foot and kill him, but he seems to have more thoughts to express.

「I also anonymously reported the existence of Catherine and Rose.」

Melissa shrieks and slumps over the table, muttering something like an incantation for a curse.

「What a well-executed betrayal. Now are the failures in Libatis and Malt your work too?」

「Those are Lord Hardlett’s own doing. I just lured away the subordinates and didn’t let them give advice.」

Whatever.

The reason I haven’t killed him yet is because I still want to ask something.

「I’ve heard enough of what you did. I want to know why.」

「To put you in a bind.」

Nonna pounces on Leopolt faster than I can react.

「Traitor! Ungrateful! Killjoy! Little girl fetis.h.!.+ Waaaaah!!」

Nonna repeatedly strikes his cheek while crying.

「I was happy! I made a warm family! It’s all your fault that everything broke!!」

No matter how hard Nonna hits him, her palm does no damage.

「Why!? Why would you do such horrible things!? If you wanted to die, you could have died by yourself!!」

Leopolt stares straight at Nonna――though it was clear his intentions are directed at me.

「What a foolish question.」

Nonna reaches her limit, turns red, and trembles, prompting Carla to quickly embrace her.

「There is someone who wants to become king. And I want to make that person king.」

I look down at Leopolt.

Before I knew it, my foot which should be pressing down hard was simply resting on top of his chest.

「However there is already a king, a stagnant and boring king. There is only one country and also only one throne.」

Leopolt’s gaze collided with mine.

「That means it has to be taken. Those without ambition do not need a throne.」

Leopolt moves my foot and gets up.

He looks me in the eye.

「Your ambition has not disappeared. It’s just that your comical ridiculous life and the women you live, as well as your sense of duty and human nature that are interfering with the flames I am trying to fan.」

Leopolt’s eyes fixate on me.

Not letting myself be overpowered, I stare back at his eyes which are at a slightly lower position.

「That’s why I pushed your back. I erased the excuse of not having a just cause.」

Leopolt briefly pauses as if to say he is done explaining.

There is no change in his expression.

He’s been like that ever since he came to work under me, wearing a cold iron mask that blocks any emotion from showing.

「I killed the investigation team with your men and your weapons. There is no going back now.」

Even Nonna’s screaming voice that curses Leopolt seems to be far in the distance at this moment.

「Or will you prostrate yourself to the king? If you implore His Majesty to be merciful, he may let you live as a small feudal lord.」

Every bit of his speech seems to provoke me.

「Perhaps you will speak the entire truth to him and say I alone was the one who rebelled. I am someone who holds a n.o.ble t.i.tle and is also poorly received by the king. You may be able to survive if the military commissioner and your allies help protect you.」

That would be a very pathetic thing for me to do.

「Or will you take your women and flee somewhere to create an ordinary warm family? You have enough money to do that.」

That would be the easiest thing to do.

But I will not be able to achieve my goal for all eternity.

「There is only one path. Will you walk or will you stand still? Please decide.」

「A traitor like you shouldn’t spout such serious words!!」

「Aegir-sama, you should first tell Radhalde-san about――」

Myla and the cute Celia sound distant too.

I gaze up at the ceiling.

While looking at the trembling Casie hiding behind the chandelier, I stop and think for about 30 seconds.

30 seconds.

That’s the amount of time it takes to yawn and fart when I wake up. It’s the amount of time it takes to wash my face and rinse my mouth. It’s the short amount of time it takes to caress Celia’s cheek.

Yet it feels indescribably long, like I’m looking back at my entire life from the beginning.

I turn back to Leopolt, then punch him on the right side of his face.

「That’s for making Nonna cry.」

I punch him on the left side as his body falters.

「That’s for making Celia sad.」

I punch him in the stomach.

「That’s for making Melissa feel despair.」

I sweep his leg and trip him.

「――that last one was from a surplus of energy.」

Leopolt wipes the blood from the corner of his mouth and gets up.

「Is there a punch for Lord Hardlett?」

「No, it’s fine.」

I look at Adolph.

I have a much sterner gaze than usual.

「Take out money from the treasury and distribute it to the nearby n.o.bles, governors, and influential persons. Curry favor with them and win them over. Promise them money or women or land. You may bring Tristan along and make him bow too. It’s so we can smooth things over……with the king.」

Adolph gives me a surprised look, but doesn’t say anything and shakes his head.

「Unfortunately, even if you do that……」

「I don’t need a good outcome. It’s a smoke screen.」

The room is enveloped by an illusion of the air making a ping sound.

Myla staggers backward a few steps.

Celia puts both hands over her mouth, while Nonna crawls to me on all fours.

「When will the army move?」

「The private army will move within two hours. The mountain nation has departed with their bow cavalry equipment. We can join up tomorrow in the northern region of the territory.」

Leopolt answers without delay.

That’s not just fast.

It’s on the level where the order to sortie has already been given and I can relax.

Leopolt goes on to mention things he wasn’t asked.

「No one has escaped from Salaedo. It will be at least tomorrow noon or evening when reports of those who pa.s.sed by reach the capital. Even if the royal order is issued immediately to confirm the truth on the morning of the third day, it will take more than a week for the royal army to prepare for war.」

「What about the neighboring feudal lords?」

「They won’t be a problem. It will take more than a month to pull together all the soldiers for their armies that they disbanded since the great war.」

That is when Celia jumps in.

She was going to pull my arm, but she jumped too far and climbed on my back instead.

「Wait! That’s……just because the situation worsened…… is the same as the rebelling n.o.bles of the past……」

It is Leopolt who rebuts.

「It is completely different. They conveniently gathered an army when the king was ready and waiting. Now, not only is the kingdom not ready, they don’t even have a sword on their hip. We want to cut them down before they draw their sword, and before they can stand up if possible.」

「Talk specifics.」

Leopolt, uncharacteristic of a traitor, bows politely before continuing.

「Even if we are faster than them in preparations, the difference in military strength is clear in a head-on battle. Plans also won’t work when all territory besides our own belongs to the enemy. Therefore, we will use cavalry, wagon units, and bow cavalry to blitz the capital directly, and subdue the royal palace and the king. That is all.」

I’m fine with it being so simple.

Tristan also offers his opinion.

「Well, it’s not necessarily the case that a war of attrition is not an option. We are certainly at an overwhelming disadvantage in terms of numbers, but we can fortify our defenses and buy time. Then we can use Ivanna-san’s connections and wait until the Federation intervenes. If we also have Aless on our side, it will even harder for them to concentrate their forces.」

I reject Tristan’s suggestion.

「No. We can’t do that.」

「We can, it has an 80% success rate if I do it. The success rate of an attack on the capital doesn’t have a 50% chance in the best case.」

Tristan is unusually persistent and refuses to back down.

But that’s not what I meant.

「What is the final goal of that strategy?」

「Negotiation for peace with beneficial terms. To maintain the current――aah, I see. You don’t want that anymore.」

After Tristan figures it out on his own, while looking down, he tears Celia off me and leaves.

She shakes him off halfway and trips him up though.

Despite coming to a conclusion, Leopolt is waiting on standby.

Could it be that he’s waiting for me to give the order, even though he’s been acting on his own this whole time?

「W-wait!」

Nonna crawls over before I open my mouth and clings to my leg.

「Do we have to do this!? Will everyone die again!?」

Nonna’s hips seem to have given out so she is only using the strength of her arms to climb up to my waist.

「I will get on my knees if I have to, everyone will! If I have to, I’ll even do things I don’t like! I beg you, Aegir-sama……peacefully……I don’t want it, I don’t like fire or swords or blood!!」

Carla and Mel nod in agreement behind her.

Their eyes tell me that they are not against prostrating themselves or letting themselves be embraced by other men.

Nonna’s stream of words don’t stop even when I hug her.

「Hey, let’s stop this. Right, why don’t we have s.e.x! Let’s leave everything to Tristan and Adolph and have s.e.x forev……」

And then, the other girls come flocking to me.

Celia stresses about the potential dangers to my life, Melissa emphasizes the future of the children, Carla talks about the fun life we can have together, Mel brings up the value of family, Maria recounts how it’s been so long since we had peace, Myla and Irijina reiterates their thoughts on my honor and loyalty……in an attempt to dissuade me from going through with the plan.

I smile cheerfully in order to calm the girls down.

「I don’t have any intentions of stopping. If I stop here, I will never achieve my goal.」

Terror and sadness washes over the faces of all but one of them.

I would also like to achieve my goal comfortably and without fuss, but life is not that easy.

In the end, it will be a gamble.

「This is the last time I can make a bet. If I don’t take the chance now, my reason for living will disappear. Please understand.」

I also plead with my eyes.

Nonna instantly bursts into tears loudly.

Now, let’s make sure I declare it before I forget.

It’s not because I was caught up in Leopolt’s plot, this is my own will.

I draw my Dual Crater and shout.

「As of today, I will rebel against the Goldonia royal family.」

That even stopped Nonna’s crying.

「I do not have any contempt towards the king. Nor do I have a name to clear or honor to restore.」

Everyone is either s.h.i.+vering or hanging their heads.

「I have just one reason: I simply want to become king!」

I brandish my Dual Crater once and stab it into the floor.

If I declared my wish on the wasteland in front of tens of thousands of soldiers, it would probably be remembered as a historic scene.

If I made the declaration in the reception hall in front of a hundred subordinates, it would probably become a historic painting.

But doing so in the dining hall during the early morning surrounded by teary-eyed women, one would think I admitted to cheating or something.

Leopolt is the only one who straightens his back and salutes in the odd atmosphere.

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Celia, not wanting to lose, also salutes, and Myla and Irijina nod to each other before resolving themselves and saluting as well.

「Silence! I’ll explain, so listen, don’t make me kill you!!」

I settle them down by force and continue.

Sekrit, don’t laugh.

「I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of different rumors, but they’re irrelevant. The one thing that’s true is I want to become king. Therefore we will now be marching to the capital.」

After my bold declaration, Celia and Myla cover each other’s faces with their hands.

『W-what was that……』

『Turning traitor to become king? You’re insane……』

『My sister is working in the capital! Why do have to do this!?』

「And so――」

I go on, speaking over the murmuring.

「If you have any complaints, you may leave. I won’t kill you on the spot for that.」

Leopolt gives me the worst stare I’ve ever seen.

Tristan waves his arm toward the castle gate as if hoping everyone would leave.

「O-of course I’m leaving. This is a rebellion we’re talking about here.」

「I like Rafen and the feudal lord, but committing treason means my family will be ma.s.sacred.」

I add one more thing to my speech.

「I don’t recommend you leave though. Why? Because I’ll win. Don’t you want to be on the winning side?」

『That’s ridiculous.』『No matter how strong you are, it’s hopeless against the kingdom.』

I repeat myself.

「I will definitely win. Against any opponent, in any situation, I will win.」

I clench my fists and spread my arms apart.

「Follow me even if you are reluctant. Don’t tell me-」

I meant to grin fearlessly, but I was so excited that a chuckle escaped my lips.

「You really think I will lose in battle?」

A rather delighted laugh travels through the soldiers.

「H-he betrayed for real!? And he’s laughing!? I knew the feudal lord was crazy, but this is scary!」

「However I can’t imagine the feudal lord losing in battle. I’ve served in the army for a long time and seen him overcome many impossible circ.u.mstances. Prevailing over h.e.l.l countless times……aah, I can only see him winning against the kingdom now.」

「It would be a big deal if we won. If the nation is toppled…… and we are the ones awarded with distinguished service……gulp.」

One person steps forward during the whispering and tosses away his helmet.

「My brother who took care of me is a commander in the royal army. I can’t point my blade at him…… I will……be leaving.」

「Hooh.」

I raise my Dual Crater.

The man’s legs tremble as he shuts his eyes.

「Go. You are exiled until the battle is finished.」

Obviously, I can’t leave a soldier who has made it clear he won’t obey me in the city.

「Y-yessir!」

The man hurries out of the north gate.

「Idiot! I said we’re attacking the capital, so if you run to the north, we’ll have to kill you. Go west!」

「Righhttt!!」

The man makes a 90-degree turn and runs out the west gate.

Knowing they wouldn’t be killed, dozens of others run westward.

「The rebellion will be exposed, no?」

「If we’re slower than guys running on foot, we’ve got no chance anyways.」

Leopolt briefly goes silent, then opens his mouth again.

「Apart from that, I believe it’s our best bet.」

Deserters were limited to a few dozen.

Order within the private army has not been disturbed.

These guys know everything now.

Even if we engage the royal army, they won’t collapse.

If they were to fall apart, it would be when we lose a battle, but everything would be over at that point so I don’t have to think about it.

「Let’s depart then. Let us go claim the victory which has already been decided for us.」

The odds are probably too tight to call it a 50-50 chance, but I’ll say so in front of the troops.

And while I’m at it, I’ll a.s.sume so myself.

「Nevertheless, wreaking havoc in the peaceful kingdom with violent behavior and plots, then killing the investigation team when you couldn’t hide it anymore, then betrayal, it sounds brutal when put into words.」

Leopolt’s head rocks back and forth unnaturally.

Wait, was that him laughing? His expression didn’t change.

「Please do not worry. History is made by the victors. In the history books of future generations, it will be written that we could not bear to see the oppression of the citizens and stood up to defeat the tyrant.」

「No no no! Falsifying history is even worse than treason! I will absolutely not tolerate it!」

Celia pokes Tristan in the side to settle him down.

Oh that reminds me, I have to correct one of Leopolt’s mistakes.

「You said something about a just cause, right?」

「Yes. That was my understanding.」

I shake my head.

「You’re wrong there. I never had one to begin with. If I had to give a reason, I wanted to become king in a cool way.」

「Cool? Do you mean as a legend pa.s.sed down from generation to generation or as a rumor among the populace?」

I shake my head again.

「It’s nothing that impressive. It’s more simple……like striking a pose once the victory has been clinched and making a woman blush, that kind of cool development.」

「Ah, Leopolt-san went to command the army.」

d.a.m.n him, does he want me to behead him for the crime of treason?

「I walked down this path because I wanted to be cool when I met her again.」

n.o.body is left to listen as I mutter one more sentence and pat Celia’s head.

Military Strength Comparison

Hardlett Rebel Army

Cavalry: 1000, Bow Cavalry: 3000+?, Wagon Infantry: 800, Chariots: 40, Field Artillery: 15

Goldonian Army

Near the capital: Strength unknown

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