101. Preparations (2)
Tom left the smithy and the endless sound of Dwarves hammering away behind him. Due to the intense heat inside, he had ended up soaked in sweat.
He wiped some of it off but paused to enjoy the cool breeze as it blew through his hair.
The city, still in the midst of construction, was covered in fresh white snow.
‘Is it already winter?’
The Demon Kingdom, and the Kingdom of Aylans, had to preserve their food carefully and well in advance of the winter just in case war broke out during it. During wartime, rationing was crucial, so many preparations needed to be made.
When Tom’s gaze turned away from the city roofs, he noticed Karakul standing outside the smithy accompanied by Orc soldiers.
“What is it, Karakul?”
As there were other Orcs present, Tom spoke formally.
Karakul lowered his head and replied.
“There’s been a declaration of war from the Kingdom of Lome.”
The Kingdom of Lome had declared war on the Demon Kingdom sincerely and had even sent a representative. They had also amicably informed them of the exact date of the deployment of their troops.
“They say that they will formally begin their attack three months from now.”
“…They may be called the Land of Knights, but they seem to be excessively courteous. Normally, you’d send a declaration and quietly launch an ambush.”
There was also no reason to dispatch a representative under normal circumstances. Especially during such difficult times. Sending out a representative to declare war was risky and put lives on the line.
Karakul and Tom walked through the city.
“What happened to the representative?”
“He says he’ll return right away.”
“You mean, without a rest?”
“They probably couldn’t rest comfortably in a place called the Den of Demons. Especially since their lives will be in danger because of the war declaration…”
“That makes sense.”
Tom burst into laughter. He stopped walking through the crunchy snow along the road.
“… It could be that they had ulterior motives for making the declaration public like this.”
“You mean they did it intentionally?”
The nation that the Kingdom of Lome had declared war on wasn’t the Kingdom of Aylans, but the Demon Kingdom. In other words, they were letting the entire continent know of their intention to go to war with the demons and had committed themselves to it. Also, after invading, they could negotiate a truce for a break if their casualties became too large. In that case, they would not only no longer participate in the war against the demons, but they would also delay the needless war against the Kingdom of Aylans.
Even if the Kingdom of Lome wanted to avoid a war against the other nations, they would still be wide open for other invasions from other countries, as they did not have treaties of truce with these other nations. Of course, no other nation would even think about striking Lome as long as they know that Oskal was still there…
Considering all of this, there were many aspects of this declaration that did not add up.
‘Was it Oskal’s doing?’
Tom thought that it was probably Oskal that wanted to avoid fighting against the Kingdom of Aylans because it was where Akareal resided. Seeing as they would want to avoid each other’s nations, this might have been the spark that had started this incident.
“… No, wait. Could that not be the case? Oskal has plenty of authority to move his subordinates, but no brains to follow through.”
Oskal was a famed general, but in reality, he was not that bright. The reason he was called the Invincible General was that he has never faced defeat due to his fearsome might. It had nothing to do with strategy on the battlefield. Oskal did not have the mind to think of a way to engage in a war in a manner that would avoid conflict with the other nations and the Kingdom of Aylans. In other words, there was someone else within the Kingdom of Lome that could move the nation, and they had declared war on the Demon Kingdom.
‘Otherwise, if Oskal was really in charge, they might have tried to topple us without any forethought.’
“But, there is no one that comes to mind…?”
Tom groaned. A war against the Kingdom of Lome would inevitably lead to a battle against Oskal. There were Apostles within the Demon Lord’s Army, but none of them could win against him.
‘He’s above Hero Ludin, but a bit below Holffmann. At that level, it’ll be a difficult battle even if the Apostles get involved.’
‘If I fight against Oskal…will I have to kill him?’
Tom couldn’t afford to go easy on Oskal if he had to fight him.
“…Still, we should at least prepare for now. The Kingdom of Lome has already started planning their invasion, so we need to do the same.”
Karakul nodded in response.
“This is too much! We don’t have the resources for something like an invasion!”
Pygni’s right eye was twitching. A lantern with illumination magic was keeping the room lit throughout the night. Pygni had been looking over various documents to gauge his nation’s church and state, along with military strength, but even according to the internal report given by the representative of the kingdom, it wasn’t likely that they could properly face off against the Demon Kingdom.
‘I saw a significantly developed city, your majesty!’
‘Also it appears that they will keep developing into the future!’
Pygni had heard those words and shook his head.
‘I still don’t know about the enemy’s manpower. They definitely had the military strength to destroy the 50,000 regulars of the Holy Kingdom, so… It’s obvious that they will be a very powerful opponent. I can’t guess at just how powerful, though. Aah, if we had a proper magician within the kingdom, this would go so much better… It’s nothing but swords everywhere!… Why do all of them know nothing but the sword?!’
“Shit, did I go too far by just declaring ‘I’m going to invade you~!’ I could have just declared war and pretended to fight instead…”
In reality, Pygni had acted in part because he feared the Pope’s insanity. It was because he had to act like he would obediently follow whatever he was told in order to remove any friction between himself and the Pope.
Pygni scratched his forehead with his finger.
“…Also that Devil of Lania or whatever… Just who is that guy? There’s nothing regardless of how much I investigate.”
Pygni looked over the reports he had gathered until now regarding the Devil of Lania. He had suddenly appeared 30 years ago and toppled Lania, the capital of the Holy Kingdom. He also crucified the recently appointed Archbishop Farron and left a warning that his next target would be Pope Salem Gattschuranche.
‘…Then he had disappeared.’
After that incident, 30 whole years had passed before he suddenly appeared again. In the Golden Fief. He had murdered Kelvin, the one who operated the gambling hall there, then left another warning for the Pope before disappearing again. The place he appeared next was the frontier region along the Demon Kingdom’s border. He killed the Hero Ludin, then entered the Demon Lord’s service as their aide.
‘…I can’t understand this guy’s behavior.’
In particular, he couldn’t figure out why he had left those notes of hatred toward the Pope.
‘Was it revenge? But for what kind of revenge?’
‘…And why did he wait for 30 years?’
He was the kind of existence that had toppled the capital of the Holy Kingdom in one go. Pygni couldn’t understand why someone with that amount of strength hadn’t gone and killed the Pope immediately. He could have easily done so, regardless of the thousands of knights and tens of thousands of priests residing within the new capital of the Holy Kingdom.
‘Did he get weaker…? Was that why he didn’t try to assassinate or infiltrate the capital?’
This was possible. In the case of a magician, it would have taken significant time for them to refill their mana in case of depletion. However, the time frame of 30 years was not only too long, but his actions did not make sense for someone powerful enough to kill Archbishop Holffmann by himself.
‘It’s all too strange. Holffmann himself had the strength to kill Salem. Just what was the Devil of Lania―the one that killed him―so afraid of that he didn’t just go and kill the Pope? In that case…’
Pygni’s expression soured.
‘…Did he just let Pope Salem be?’
‘He just left him alone for 30 years? Did he just keep watch on what kind of shenanigans and what kind of business Pope Salem took part in?’
‘No, that’s even more ridiculous. Unless he’s some perverted stalker, why would he obsessively watch over him like that?’
Pygni shook his head.
‘Just what is his objective? I can’t think of what that perverted bastard is thinking! Unngh…!’
“F-fine! Let’s try this again! I’ll just try again from the start!”
‘…In another possibility, could it be that he forgot about his revenge against the Pope?’
Pygni smiled widely.
‘That couldn’t be it as well! Seeing as he left that warning toward the Pope in the Golden Fief again, it seems he hadn’t forgotten about his revenge…! This is just cycling round and round!’
“Uwaaack! I don’t know! I don’t know!… That bastard! Just how is he planning his actions? Could it be that he’s just moving instinctively without any thought at all? I don’t know!”
Pygni wanted to pull his hair out. He needed to know about the Devil of Lania as he would likely come across him during the invasion.
“In this case, it might have been easier to just go to war against Pope Salem instead.”
Pygni slammed his head onto his office table, at a total loss on what to do.
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