89. Forces (2)
Helpharon quietly closed his eyes in frustration upon seeing Salem’s erratic behavior.
‘Why am I following this madman?’
After taking a moment, Helpharon opened his eyes again and started speaking.
“…For now, please follow Cardinal Tehron’s advice. Send out an apology for the incident regarding the Continental Law. There is a bigger picture at play, here…”
“You’re crazy. Why should I apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong? I’m actually a national Hero for doing that.”
Helpharon narrowed his eyes.
‘He thinks that anything that benefits himself, benefits the nation as a whole?’
It was the formulaic excuse of tyrants and dictators. Salem did not listen to Helpharon’s warnings. He paced the room back and forth with his arms crossed, muttering to himself.
“Damned old man! He really died in an unbelievable way! Shit, if he was going to die, he should’ve at least taken King Paulie with him! Well, fine! If Holffmann hadn’t died, it would have just been trouble for me anyways! He was going to try to kill the Evilesse Order of Holy Knights at some point, so this is actually a good thing. Let’s think positively. Yes! Positively!”
The Pope muttered to himself and continued to pace―seemingly turning over his own words in his head.
Then he suddenly started shouting.
“Shit! Seeing the glass as half-full doesn’t do anything! Optimism is bullshit!”
The schism between his words and actions began to grow. As his expression grew wilder, his pupils dilated. He randomly broke out into laughter as the narcotics took effect, and his expression, drunk and euphoric, looked like it belonged to a madman.
Salem stopped pacing and pointed a finger toward Helpharon.
“There’s that orphanage that Holffmann operated, right? I heard that there were children there. Please kill them all. They’re orphans, so nobody cares about them. Holfmann needs to pay for dying, so go kill all the kids he looked after.”
Salem rubbed his chin, deep thought, before clapping his hands to express that he had a good idea.
“Ah! And a plan regarding what we were just talking about. Cardinal Tehron… I’ll take care of it. And regarding the Kingdom of Aylans…”
Salem cringed in disgust.
“…We’ll request help from the Kingdom of Rhom. I didn’t imagine that King Paulie would ask for help from a neighboring kingdom after all of his blustering. My my, how embarrassing that I must grovel and beg for help…”
“Kingdom of Rhom has no reason to help us. Also, Count Benia has started a rebellion there. Even if they wanted to, they have no means to help us.”
“A rebellion? You can call something like that a rebellion? It was started by a count, so there’s no way it went anywhere. I think I actually heard that they mostly suppressed that rebellion already. There should still be plenty of soldiers gathered after putting it down.”
Salem smiled confidently and tapped his own chest.
“And that is just a lazy excuse! What about the Kingdom of Pygni? They’re allied with me, right? Haha! Yes! I have a pig-monster on my side! I have no idea how someone like that survived a rebellion and made it all the way to the throne. He even did it without my help! I was just sitting on the sidelines at the time because it was too annoying to intervene. But thanks to his glorious efforts, his kingdom can finally serve a useful purpose. Also, there’s his renowned general, Oskal, who was my former companion! They have a debt to me! The debt of freeing the former Hero! Those two will definitely help me! Not to mention, we’re in an alliance with the Kingdom of Rhom. When we declared war against the Kingdom of Aylans, so did they. There are plenty of people to help us bring King Paulie to the guillotine! Also―!”
Salem smiled thickly.
“That stubborn Oskal will do what I tell him to.”
King Pygni might not know it, but Oskal, known as the Sword of the King and the Protector of Rhom, would definitely help Salem. Oskal was the stubborn type of person that would stake his life for a debt.
“I never imagined that I’d be making use of his old-fashioned personality like this. Please send a letter immediately! Tell them to attack the damned Kingdom of Aylans!”
The entire sky was swallowed up by dark clouds. A rough monsoon poured down making the ground damp and thick with mud. This made the terrain extremely difficult to traverse.
“I can’t believe this! It rained! Shit, why did I have to come out here in weather like this?! Uuuugh… I hate it so much. And this horse, is it really a prestigious horse? Why is it panting so pathetically?”
A man in his forties with a bulky, overweight body frowned as he glared at the horse he was riding.
The horse whinnied and appeared agitated. It was decked out in thick plate-armor and its rider had been eating more than his fair share, recently, so after a few hours of carrying him around without any rest, it was about to collapse from exhaustion.
Looking at the horse’s reaction, Pygni waved his hand.
“Aah, I got it. I got it. Don’t be so angry! You aren’t planning on tossing me off, are you?”
King Pygni shook his head in amusement.
“Aah, my goodness… I should have brought several horses. I didn’t know that such a prestigious horse would become exhausted like this. I have to run if we lose, but at this rate, it’s looking like I’m at risk of being captured and thrown on the guillotine.”
Pygni shrugged lightheartedly before narrowing his eyes.
“Of course… I’m not going to lose.”
King Pygni looked ahead.
An army was marching forward through the storm before him. Their flag was waving in the air, soldiers were wearing heavy equipment and riding on horses, and everyone was approaching with a fire in their eyes. There were five thousand men. They were the regulars gathered by the nobles of the Kingdom of Rhom. They were also the men that had planned this rebellion.
“… They’re really stupid, aren’t they? Is this their final struggle? They’re headed toward the capital with only five-thousand men? They don’t even have any siege equipment and are mainly composed of cavalry. Mmm… Did someone at the capital open the door for them? It’ll be a headache finding them!”
King Pygni reached for his forehead and shook his head.
“But, on the other hand, I’m rather grateful. All those that oppose me gathered themselves up like this and approached me directly, so it’ll be easy to clean them all up, right Oskal?”
King Pygni turned his head. A knight with a bulky body met his gaze. A man whose height easily exceeded two meters, and whose body was entirely wrapped in plate armor, stood in front.
“…Aren’t you being too rash, your majesty?”
“Rash? What is?”
Oskal looked around at the surroundings through his helmet. He couldn’t see any army on their side or even any security. It was just the two of them there, facing down the incoming horde.
“… You should at least have a bodyguard.”
“Aah? Those annoying bastards? Why? There is only one bodyguard for me.”
Pygni’s finger pointed toward Oskal and smiled.
“You are my sword and my shield. As the ultimate weapon, you are the ultimate security!”
“What are you planning to do when I’m not here?”
“What would I do? Even the thought of it is horrid! I’ll be so afraid that I won’t be able to sleep at night in that case! I might as well hand over my throne to my son! Or rather, should I hand it over immediately?”
“You’re speaking about it too lightly. He’s much too young to receive the throne. It’s too much for the innocent prince, with no knowledge of the outside world, to receive the throne.”\
“It’s a joke. Don’t take it too seriously. Still, twelve years old is plenty grown.”
Pygni led his horse toward Oskal’s side, and he wrapped his arm around Oksal’s shoulder and spoke cheerfully.
“Oskal, I’ll be leaving my son in your care next. If that kid becomes king…he will be your master.”
“…I am too old. My final days are approaching. It’s already hard enough protecting your highness.”
“Die? Who? You? Haha! You make good jokes. Who is going to give you permission to die?”
King Pygni moved away from Oskal and led his horse to the rear.
“Oskal, you’re no different than a slave. For the kingdom, for the people, for the king, you must keep on living until the very end.”
Pygni spoke as he swept back his hair, now damp from the downpour.
“Live. Survive. Eat good food, train your body, and kill your enemies while preserving your life no matter what. Don’t even think of growing old and dying gracefully. You are my sword and shield. If you want to die of old age, you need my permission. So, keep protecting me by my side, and protect my child, Oskal.”
When King Pygni stopped speaking, the rebel army stopped. Oskal’s eyes looked ahead.
Standing at the front, the eyes of the leader of the rebel army, Count Benia, grew wide in shock seeing both Oskal and Pygni.
Pygni burst into laughter upon hearing Count Benia’s words.
“Majesty? He calls me majesty, Oskal! Did you hear?! Haha! Why is a rebel army trying to maintain formality?”
As the sound of laughter reverberated, Count Benia watched King Pygni with a stiff expression.
‘Why is he here? With no army or any security no less…!’
Count Benia’s eyes turned to the knight standing beside him. He couldn’t see who it was through the plate armor and helmet, but seeing as he was standing beside Pygni, there was only one person that came to mind.
“Is that… Oskal?”
— Ω —