There is no conclusion in sight for the war council taking place in the assembly hall of Spada’s royal palace, even as the sun begins to set.
The topic of discussion is the force that has suddenly appeared and taken control over the neighboring country of Daidalos, the ones that call themselves the『Crusaders.』
There is critically important concern to be had regarding the nation’s security, so it is not unexpected for heated arguments to be occurring.
「– We should make the first move.」
The one advocating for a pre-emptive strike is Emilia Friedrich Bardiel, who commands the second battalion of Spada’s army, known as the『Tempest.』
The many brave women of the Bardiel house, one of the Four Great Houses of Spada, have a fierce, intimidating presence. Even veteran knights would be unable to speak any words other than “yes” if she were to glare at them.
「And how many times do I have to tell you that it’s too difficult... Ah, jeez, the discussion’s just going in a circle, isn’t it...」
However, a young man reluctantly gives her this reply, with an expression showing more fatigue than direct opposition to her suggestion.
He is none other than Aisenhart Tristan Spada, the first prince of Spada, vice-captain of the first battalion of Spada’s army, known as『Braveheart.』
Scratching the head of red hair that he inherited from his father as if in defeat, he glances towards the council leader’s seat. Sitting there is the silent figure of his father, the King of Spada, Leonhart Tristan Spada.
Casting a sharp gaze over the assembly hall with a grim expression in his golden eyes, it appears that he has the dignity that one would expect of a country’s king. But in his mind, he is surely feeling frustration at this seemingly endless argument.
Aisenhart half-jokingly imagines that if the king is not allowed some practice swings with his sword to distract himself, he is simply going to use his authority to announce,「Depart for the frontlines at once!」and leave.
In other words, the son knows very well that his father is not very good at using his brain.
King Leonhart is not the only one to be fed up with this situation. Aisenhart is also frustrated, and there is no doubt that the same is true for the generals of the Spada army gathered here, as well as the high-ranked officers in attendance.
General Emilia, whose opinion is in opposition to his, is surely feeling fatigue in both her mind and body, even if she is not showing it on her face.
Though they are unable to decide on a plan, they need to at least reach some kind of compromise at this war council.
Letting out another small sigh, Aisenhart expresses his viewpoint.
「General Emilia, I understand how effective a pre-emptive strike can be, but surely these circumstances are not suitable for that?」
Aisenhart believes that they should focus on defense rather than on attacking.
「I wondered whether I should say this here, but it seems we won’t get anywhere if I don’t, so I will speak my mind. You’re trying to say that the problem lies not with us, the army of Spada, but with the other countries, right?」
「... You’re saying that we should wait to hear the opinions of our allies?」
Emilia is not in a military position just for show. Though she possesses overwhelming power, she also has intelligence to match her cool, beautiful looks.
She already understands the point that is being made. No, like Aisenhart, she has been avoiding mentioning it directly, but she had imagined that this would be the case from the start.
「Aneki* is in Fauren, and in any case, they owe us for the slave trader incident. I’m sure it will go well.」
Spada and Fauren were once engaged in fierce territorial battles over the land in the Iskia region, but now they are known as the two city-states with the deepest mutual understanding of each other.
The「Aneki」Aisenhart speaks of is none other than Spada’s first princess. She married the first prince of Fauren, strengthening the relationship between the two countries during the earlier days of Leonhart’s reign.
If Spada required the help of allied countries, without a doubt, the first to offer their assistance would be Fauren.
But at the same time, there is no other country that can be relied on apart from Fauren. The next best candidate would be the country that lies in the opposite direction.
「It has to be Avalon after all, but that’s probably going to be a bit difficult.」
In response to Aisenhart’s words, Emilia’s beautiful eyebrows twist into a frown, as if to say that she already knows that.
「To think that the Demon King’s territory is occupied by peace-loving fools now. How sad.」
The city-states at the center of the continent of Pandora have enjoyed a long period of peace.
It is not the result of the people’s virtuous hearts and desire to avoid conflict, but that of constant diplomatic efforts and incredible balance of military power.
Of course, during such an extended era of peace, the fundamental desire to avoid war takes root in the heart of the citizens, but if a large shift in the balance of power were to occur, the flames of war would undoubtedly be rekindled.
That is why, up until now, Spada has adopted a defensive policy against Daidalos.
The Dragon King Garvinal’s ambition to unite all of Pandora is a famous tale. Therefore, if it came to a defensive battle, it would be simple to gain the cooperation of allied countries, starting with Avalon.
There is no need to worry about the future consequences of a battle in self-defense. This is one of the major reasons that Spada has been able to repel the armies of Daidalos.
However, Daidalos, which every allied nation unanimously designated as an enemy, has fallen and been replaced by another military force. With that being the case, the allied nations may not agree that this new force is an enemy.
In short, the other countries must make a new decision from scratch as to whether they wish to support Spada now.
「We need to be even more cautious of the Crusaders than we were of Daidalos. They are barbarians who do not understand the etiquette of combat.」
The messenger they sent earlier, as Leonhart suspected, never returned.
Perhaps Garvinal really revered the legend of the old Demon King; he paid strong attention to the rules of battle.
A proper declaration of war was a given, but he even went as far as to set a time and date for decisive battles. On top of that, he even issued challenges for one-on-one combat between the heads of countries, a custom that is very out-of-date among the modern city-states.
Strangely, King Leonhart accepted the challenge every time; his actions and strength are abnormal.
In any case, when messengers from Spada arrived, Garnival would definitely not kill them. On the contrary, he would welcome them with warm hospitality, carefully listen to the message and send them back with a handwritten reply.
Showing no response to a messenger is not only rude, but downright ominous.
At least sending the messenger’s severed head back would deliver a clear message of hostility. But Aisenhart is not foolish enough to say this out loud.
「The Galahad mountain range was certainly in a terrible state –」
「Calling it terrible would be an understatement; that was clearly a bloodbath.」
The reason that Emilia knows the threat that the Crusaders pose better than anyone else she has seen the remnants of their battles with her own eyes.
It was about three months ago, at the start of the Month of New Flames (Hatsuhi). A messenger arrived in Spada bringing a request for aid, bearing a signature from every village in Daidalos.
At the time, Spada was already aware that there were signs of war in Daidalos, but they were unsure of what exactly was going on.
They were only able to get decisive information regarding the situation when this messenger arrived.
King Leonhart quickly decided to dispatch reinforcements. On the same day, the second battalion,『Tempest』, which has the mobility of its cavalry, was given this royal command.
And so, the group of knights led by Emilia arrived at the highway in the Galahad mountain range to witness the aftermath of a gruesome massacre.
「Well, calm down. I know your precious younger brother was in danger, so I understand that you had no choice –」
「My apologies, Emilia-senpai. That was a slip of the tongue.」
A little of the tension in the room is released.
It is well-known that Emilia is Aisenhart’s senpai, having been one year above him at the Royal Spada Academy. To be more specific, the tales of their heroic deeds that they performed while enrolled at the academy are well-known.
Above all, it is well-known that Aisenhart would be no match for his senpai Emilia. Therefore, he cannot raise any complaints when she uses her nickname for him with no honorific.
「In any case, we’re taking maximum precautions against the Crusaders. That huge old man, Baphomet, isn’t here. Isn’t that enough proof for you?」
「... Certainly, I have heard that General Gezenbool has entered Galahad Fort.」
Just half a month ago, King Leonhart returned from his inspection of Galahad Fort and made another quick decision, this time to strengthen its defenses.
The one who was selected to fulfil this duty is General Gezenbool of the Baphomet family, which is renowned as a family of high-class demons.
「On top of that, we’ve gathered airborne forces like Dragons, Pegasuses and Griffons from all over Spada. Of course, we’ll be able to keep an eye on things and respond in time in an emergency situation.」
The fact that they have gathered the valuable airborne forces is a sign that the nation is in a state of alert, as if war might break out the very next day.
It is proof that King Leonhart will never underestimate the threat posed by the Crusaders.
「But looking at it another way, you could say that this is all that Spada is capable of right now.」
「Yeah. A pre-emptive strike is not an option.」
Emilia speaks bluntly, but Aisenhart does not deny her statement or make any excuses. He confirms that it is true. There is no meaning in trying to deceive her in regards to this; it is a simple fact that is not even worth arguing over.
If Spada were to make a pre-emptive strike now, other countries would see it as an invasion of Daidalos’s territory.
The problem is not that this would be criticized as some unwarranted act of aggression. In fact, it is likely that it would be viewed as such. But the real problem is the potential expansion of Spada’s territory.
It is clear to everyone that if the vast lands of Daidalos were to be annexed by Spada, it would destroy the balance of power between the nations.
Spada has no intention of doing so, as this would be a truly troublesome outcome. Even if Daidalos properly surrendered its lands to Spada, it would undoubtedly cause conflict.
「I know that it seems foolish to just sit here and make preparations for the enemy’s attack, but we have no choice, you see?」
In other words, there is no option but to focus on Spada’s defense.
The Crusaders’ occupation of Daidalos is a recent event. With that being the case, it is difficult to say if all of their defense plans are already in place. Whether they would focus on defense, attack or even on ruling over the occupied lands, each of these options would require time and preparation.
「There is also information that there have been signs of rebellion within Daidalos’s territory.」
「Yeah. We don’t know whether it’s a rebel army formed from the remains of the country’s army that was defeated or just a group of bandits, but there’s no doubt that there’s chaos everywhere.」
That is why if an attack was made with this timing, there is a high chance that they would be able to completely annihilate the Crusaders. They could even possibly fly the national flag of Spada on the royal castle of Daidalos by the end of the year.
However, the consequences of such a large victory for Spada are something that nobody wishes for.
「But in the end, we won’t change what we’ve been doing up until now, because we can’t.」
After all, the Crusaders would eventually be seen as the second Daidalos.
Spada would just need to adopt a defense plan and act as a shield for all of the city-states.
At the very least, this would result in the long-term preservation of Pandora’s peace. Even Spada does not wish for the current situation to change.
「We have no choice, huh... However, in any case, there will be a war with the Crusaders. The enemy’s forward base was in Alzas, if I’m not mistaken? We should at least make the first move there – no, at least lay the groundwork for it, just enough that we would not have the blame put on us when the time comes.」
「I agree with that. Let’s have our diplomat do his best to make Avalon’s imperial courts tremble!」
An agreement of opinions is finally in sight.
And then, as the time comes for King Leonhart, who has been listening to the various arguments in silence, to fulfil his role as the leading authority in the council –
「Your Majesty, there has been an emergency report.」
A royal guard quietly appears beside the king and whispers into his ear.
The sight of the king receiving a report is visible to the whole assembly hall, even if the others cannot hear what is being reported. The officers begin to murmur quietly amongst themselves, wondering what this could be.
They wait in tension, but the report is over in less than a minute.
The king suddenly stands up from his seat and raises his voice in a commanding tone, as if he were on a battlefield.
「Depart for the frontlines at once!」