102. Preparations (3)
The office door was opened after a knock. Pygni looked at the knight who entered the room without his permission, Oskal, and spoke with an unhappy tone,
“Not only my bedroom, but you also waltz into my office without my permission. Oskal, unlike with my father, aren’t you looking down on me too much? Should I just report you to the senate, huh?!”
Oskal scratched his head at Pygni’s words.
“Anything but that. It would be way better to get stabbed on the battlefield than to hear those old men’s nagging.”
“Old men…? Aren’t they your age? Anyway, what brings you here?” Pygni asked while looking at Oskal.
His eyes grew wider once he noticed something chubby between Oskal’s legs. A plump kid with blond hair and blue eyes was hiding there.
Oskal smiled bitterly and shrugged his shoulders while Pygni burst into laughter.
“Oh my! Who is this…?”
The kid rushed out from behind Oskal’s legs.
It was Pygni’s only son, Jamong. Pygni hugged his son and rubbed his cheek.
“Ahh! Son, why aren’t you sleeping and coming to dad at this late hour…?”
“I came to cheer you up because I thought you would be tired!”
“Oh my God…! Oskal, look at this kid! He is an angel! An angel!”
Pygni rubbed his own cheek against Jamong’s.
Seeing this strange scene play out, Oskal scratched his head.
‘I bet the other nobles would have their mouths agape if they were to see this.’
Being the ruler of Lome Kingdom, a kingdom with a strict martial foundation, Pygni’s reputation was of a similar nature. He was well-known as someone who ruled with an iron fist, contrary to his appearance. Nobody would ever expect that behind closed doors, their king was acting like a fool with his son.
‘It also must be why he doesn’t let his son be near the throne.’
Being the child of a concubine had already been a point of contention between Pygni and the other nobles. While that was somewhat behind him, it wasn’t as if those unhappy with his ascension to the throne had all disappeared. If they saw him acting like this with his son, rather than maintaining the demeanor expected of royalty, it would only be more ammunition for them to use against him.
“We came because Prince Jamong said he missed Your Highness. Also… we have assembled the troops. They’re at your beck and call.”
Pygni frowned at Oskal’s words.
“…Aren’t you moving things a bit too fast? Just take it slow. It’s barely been a week since we sent ambassadors and to the demons. We still have 2 months and 3 weeks… Let’s not ruin the short time of peace we have left.”
“On top of that, though I said we’re attacking the Demon Kingdom… It might get postponed. Their military forces and the bastards commanding them, we know nothing more than rumors about them, so we can’t make a move. Even if we want to send a spy to dig up information…”
‘It’s hard to infiltrate a kingdom made up of demons.
‘If we send a human spy to the Demon Kingdom, he would be caught in a few days. No, though it’d be possible for a stranger to roam around their cities, it would be impossible to get into the Demon Lord’s palace.
‘And it’s not like we have any reason to send ambassadors again to get information… Even if we do, the possibility of them getting proper intel is minimal.’
“Besides…I can’t perceive how threatening the Devil of Lania is. He’s a monster that can erase a small kingdom from the map without a trace by himself. A war against that guy…? Am I not crazy?”
‘We have to choose between two options if we go to war against the Demon Kingdom. One, a perfect victory. To defeat the Demon Lord’s army, we catch the Demon Lord, hold her hostage, and negotiate. We’ll sign a cease-fire agreement and receive the ransom.’
They would capture the Demon Lord, but they must not kill her. Pygni dreaded what the Devil of Lania and Demon Kingdom would do should any harm befell the Demon Lord. But, if they held her hostage and reached an agreement, the Demon Kingdom also wouldn’t go out of their way to launch a ‘destructive’ war against the Lome Kingdom. If things went as planned, it would be a huge boon for Pygni.
The fact that he had won against the Demon Kingdom.
Pygni’s authority would solidify as soon as his complex and image of being a concubine’s child shattered. Also, the Holy Kingdom wouldn’t be able to force the Lome Kingdom, who won against the Demon Kingdom, to participate in the next war in the future.
‘Second, a defeat.’
To lose against the Demon Kingdom.
Formally, all this entailed was having his army routed on the battlefield, leading to a retreat. They could easily lose on purpose and pull back quickly, but there would be a big penalty.
The soldiers would have to pay the price for their ‘cowardice’, whether that be a monetary penalty, or their very lives. Furthermore, it would give the nobles who disliked Pygni the motive to rebel again. Also, the Holy Kingdom would give them hell, and they might request for more troops in the next war and extort their money, food, and so on.
‘…We’re allies for appearances only. In reality, we’re at their mercy.’
Pygni sighed, opened the map on his desk, and put chess pieces on it. He rested his cheek on the palm of his hand and stared blankly at the pieces.
A piece in the shape of a king with horns and a knight piece that wore black armor and helmet were up on the map. Behind them were human knights and soldiers in golden armor, and Orc pieces. The Demon Lord, the Devil of Lania, the Demon Lord’s army, Oskal, and the other Royal Knights were each represented by different pieces.
‘I heard the Demon Lord is a woman. Also, she’s the weakest Demon Lord in history, and her armies are smaller than demon armies of the past. If we use these circumstances to our advantage…it might just be enough to overpower them with only Royal Knights.’
The problem was the Devil of Lania and the Apostles.
Oskal alone could take care of the Apostles if it was only them. However, he wouldn’t be able to beat the Devil of Lania.
‘…The number of demons must be small. I should use that.’
‘What if I scatter the troops…?’
‘No, then our army would be split by the Demon Kingdom’s soldiers, who are far more powerful than humans.’
If they fought head-on, they would have a confrontation with the Devil of Lania, whether they liked it or not. Plus, the damage to their army would be greater than they could ever imagine.
“…I don’t know. Is there a way to prevent the Devil of Lania from moving even an inch while catching the Demon Lord…? A way to also efficiently disperse the troops…?”
Sitting on Pygni’s lap, Jamong looked at the map after hearing his father talking to himself. He then tilted his head and reached out.
Pygni’s eyes slowly grew wider as he mindlessly looked at Jamong.
Jamong moved Oskal’s piece, then he moved the piece with Devil of Lania engraved on it following Oskal’s piece. Next came the human knights, and to catch them, some of the Demon Lord’s army also moved along.
After that, there was only the Demon Lord and some of the troops left.
“…It’s a war we can’t win in the first place.”
The Devil of Lania always moved along in the direction Oskal was going, as if keeping him in check.
If that really happened, only the Demon Kingdom’s Demon Lord would be left, along with some of the Demon Kingdom’s army acting as her guard.
In conclusion, even if they bought time while going against the Devil of Lania, there was no way to hold the Demon Lord hostage.
‘We have to advance toward their capital to attack the Demon Lord. It’s hard to target the Demon Lord’s castle in a short time, even if we attract the Devil of Lania’s attention. Then…’
What they needed weren’t troops to target the Demon Lord’s castle, but kidnappers to kidnap the Demon Lord.
“…I know it’s crazy. I know, but… hngh…!” Pygni groaned as he pressed his forehead. “…I should send a request to the Holy Kingdom, asking them to send us a Hero-level person, or a group of them if possible.”
They were made to kill the Demon Lord, but Pygni decided to use them as kidnappers.
He needed to do it, at least to catch the Demon Lord.
“You’re slow! Is it okay for the honorable Centaur clan to be this slow?! Being overtaken by other demons is the same as being overtaken by things like human cavalry! You can never be called a Centaur if you’re that useless! Run faster…!”
“Gnolls are agile! You have to be agile if you’re a Gnoll! Gnolls climb mountains well! Gnolls climb mountains fast! You are not a Gnoll if you’re not agile and can’t climb mountains! Get to the top first if you’re a Gnoll! Move fast!”
“The most powerful demons are the Orcs. Prove it. If you can’t, you’re better off digging ditches all day long.”
“More than anything, don’t lose to things like the Orcs. I’ll whoop the asses of any Minotaurs who lose to Karakul’s unit!”
Centaurs, Gnolls, Orcs, Minotaurs, and so on, were all running in their armor while holding their weapons in a mountain complex near the Demon Kingdom’s capital, with a log tied to each of their backs.
It was merely a drill for physical fitness, but it could make ordinary humans collapse from exhaustion.
Panting and sweating like dogs, the Demon Kingdom’s soldiers were marching in a place where roads weren’t even built properly.
The soldiers wouldn’t have had any complaints if it was just a simple training, but strangely, their leaders started to have competitions among themselves and dragged them into it.
The Centaur’s leader, Hekaron; The Gnoll’s leader, Nasis; The Orc’s leader, Karakul; and The Minotaur’s leader, Allin.
It was like a battle of pride among clans.
“D-damn it… If they’re going to say it like that, why don’t they just fight among themselves and not give us a hard time…?!”
“I’m, I’m tired…!”
“W-wait, no matter how fast Gnolls are or how good Gnolls are at climbing mountains, we’re not that strong! This log makes no sense!”
The demons moved while complaining.
Aylans Magic Knights stiffened at the scene and couldn’t say anything. It was training that no human could follow at all. Climbing a mountain while heavily armed and carrying a log on one’s back? It was more like torture than training.
“…This is not at the level that we can call joint training or whatever, though?”
To prepare against the Holy Kingdom, the Demon Kingdom and the Aylans Kingdom had started joint training.
What the Demon Kingdom needed right now was a strategic move that could be useful on the battlefield. This kind of joint training would be good practice for the Demon Kingdom who—despite having a lot of fighting experience—lacked war experience.
“Goblin musket unit, aim!”
The Goblins simultaneously lifted up their magic bullet muskets and pulled the triggers. The magic bullet muskets, which were larger than their bodies, belched fire, making the Goblins fall on their asses due to recoil. Nonetheless, most of them hit their mark.
“What are you going to do being that slow! The Dwarves are going to laugh mockingly at you!”
At Kulvo’s shout, the Goblins took out the used mana stones inserted in their magic bullet muskets and put the new ones in. As mana was loaded and condensed, everyone was ready for the next shot.
Aylans mages fell in horror at the sight.
“How could they do it that fast…?”
“Their dexterity is no joke.”
“They have exquisite skill with their hands to make up for their lack of strength. Even we mages can’t handle mana stones carelessly.”
The mages observed Goblins’ movements one by one.
“Food… let’s carry the food!”
“This is the food that the Demon Kingdom’s compatriots are going to eat.”
Ogres and Trolls were pulling a huge cart. It was full of rope-mounted boxes containing food bought from all over the continent in them.
“Whoa… it must be hard. Tom, aren’t you bossing me around too much? Though the salary is worth it… Hngh.”
Halsem, the one who had bought food, sighed and shook his head. He had procured it in winter as supplies for the upcoming war.
“Hmm… they got all of them right for sure. The supplies check is perfect. As expected, humans are smart.”
Nordin Wood’s clan checked each crate and shoved it all into the warehouse.
Halsem smiled awkwardly at that.
“Let’s take a break! And while we’re having a rest…let’s drink!”
The Dwarves stopped hammering, sat on the forge, and drank alcohol in the heat. They shifted their gaze and smiled at the sets of armor that were almost completely done.
“The equipment Apostle Tom was talking about is being finished unexpectedly fast. Though it’s not enough for the whole army, at least 3000 to 4000 soldiers could be outfitted.”
With this, the Demon Kingdom had everything ready: a trained army, supplies, and equipment.
It was time to start the war.
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