When Kou and the rest returned to the Royal Palace, it was already late afternoon. After Sayaka, Layos, the Gawiik party the Golden Sword Dragons reached the surface, the unit of knights followed them in droves, bringing along with them all the black robes that they had captured.
At the Royal Palace, lots of messengers could be seen running here and there, and groups of guards were standing here and there, discussing something.
“It’s quite noisy. Did something happen?”
“Isn’t it about this incident…?”
“No, this is something different.”
Layos deduced from the atmosphere surrounding the gossiping guards that this was a different matter entirely, and as he was about to get a hold of a guard to ask him what the fuss was all about, a masked man appeared. Upon seeing him, Sayaka shivered unintentionally.
After explaining that he was Faze, a former Dark Alliance member that was presently working for Prince Suaro, he told them that the King and the rest were waiting for them in the throne room.
“The Na’Hatome army is trying to cross our borders. The King and Prince Suaro are going to explain everything including the details of this incident as soon as you can get there.”
As Layos nodded with a rather grim expression on his face, Faze bowed and left. Seeing him off, Layos abruptly turned around and said a few words of gratitude to the Gawiik party.
“Good work everyone. I’ll have your reward delivered to the inn you’re staying at later.”
“We’re thankful. Well then, we’ll take our leave here.”
Knowing that it would be rude to ask unnecessary things, Gawiik decided to return. The details of the incident would probably be told them to them at a later date, even if some parts would still be kept hidden. For now, they had to gather information in town about the movements of the Na’Hatome Army.
The Gawiik party headed towards the exit of the Royal Palace, while the knight unit lead the black robes towards their new home. Layos and the rest turned and headed towards the Royal Castle.
“Shall we go?”
“Eh, me too?”
“I don’t want to let you go just yet.” Still holding on to Sayaka by her shoulders, Layos lead the Golden Sword Dragons towards the highest level of the Royal Palace.
Meanwhile, the Gawiik party that had just left the Royal Palace decided to stop by the Professor’s place, and headed towards the Magical Research building.
“We’ll pick up the remaining magic tools we ordered, and order more of these.”
“Yeah, we should have spare one lying around, just in case but I think they will be expensive.”
“From what we saw back then, it looks like we’re gonna be going up against the Na’Hatome Army. When the request for assistance comes through, the demand for these will rise quite a bit.”
“…If the Experimental corps do well, the cost of the Magic Wheel will increase significantly. They might even become equipment that is not available to the public.”
Considering the case that the mass-production model of the Magic Wheel might become a piece of equipment reserved for the Army, and Lef’s argument that they should get them as soon as possible, it was decided that they would obtain a few of them using their connection to the Professor.
As they were discussing things about the new piece of equipment, Karen suddenly realized. The bird sitting on her shoulder was not participating in the conversation, and was instead grooming itself. Meaning that Kou was not inside it.
“Wait, where did Kou-chan go?”
The Imperial Guards had secured the entrance of the top floor of the Royal Palace. Sayaka, who had never entered the throne room of the King was a bit nervous.
Although she had caught sight of him from afar a number of times, it was her first time meeting him face to face. From his expression and the air about him, he seemed like a kind-hearted middle-aged uncle, but there was certain heavy aura coming off him that made you realize that this man was a ruler. It wasn’t easy to express in words, he was somehow, “big”.
In addition to King Leozeos, the Second Prince Suaro, the Third Prince Rozeth, the Prime Minister Tormerge, and the senior officers of the army were also present, however, the impression of the King was so strong that they didn’t really stand out. The King suddenly brought his face very close to Sayaka and she instinctively bent backwards.
“I-Is something the matter?”
“What’s wrong, Father?”
“Not much, just thought that you brought along a pretty strange bug.”
As Layos who had stepped in front of Sayaka looked at him in astonishment, the King ignored him. Sayaka panicked at hearing the word “bug”, thinking Is he talking about me!?, but then opened her eyes wide when she spotted letters of light floating near her shoulder.
Ah, I got found out.
A small bug came flying out of Sayaka’s clothes, and in the next instant, a black-haired boy appeared accompanied by the light of a summoning stone. Kou had been interested in the throne room of the King and while the Gawiik party had been talking with Layos, he had taken the chance to silently possess a nearby bug, and entering Sayaka’s clothes, he had snuck into the throne room.
“What are you doing!” Sayaka was panicking at Kou infiltrating the throne room of the King, but the King himself seemed to have no intention to rebuke him.
“It’s fine, that unusual guest can also hear what we have to say.”
As King Leozeos gestured, a secretary of the Prime Minister Tormerge began explain the things happening behind the scenes of the incident.
They had already been investigating a few of those who had been showing suspicious movements from among those that had been deliberately fanning the conflict between Prince Suaro and Prince Layos, or those that had been encouraging others to speak up about the subject, but after getting the document that had the names of those making deals with the Dark Alliance from Kou through Prince Rozeth and adding that to their investigations, they were able to find the ones who had been the center of these operations. And after they had been brought to light, they were also able to find out who the mastermind behind the recent maneuvers of the Dark Alliance was and his goals.
The conspirators had planned to include the concubine Liiza into their ranks by revealing to her the secret about the birth order about the two Princes, but after learning that it was none other than Liiza who had wanted to keep the secret hidden, they decided that approaching her carelessly might bring their movements to light, so they gave up hope on that end.
After searching for something something else they could use to cause a fuss in the Royal Palace by monitoring the movements of the Princes, they found out about the existence of a girl that had been the source of an incident half a year ago, a kind of incident that was almost ideal for them. A former Butterfly that Prince Layos was so interested in that he visited her every day. They planned to call out Prince Layos and assassinate him by using Sayaka, and then also getting Prince Rozeth mixed up in the resulting chaos between the members of the two factions.
“Rozeth was also one of their targets, huh?”
“Ahaha. If I also got mixed up in the fight for the throne, the capital would have been thrown into pure chaos.”
The idea behind the incident this time was to lure out Prince Layos by using Sayaka and then assassinate him, then put the blame on Prince Suaro. This would have caused a backlash from the supporters of Prince Layos and sent the Royal Palace into chaos. The beginning had been the apparent warning from Prince Layos to Prince Suaro, in other words the attack on Princess Elrose. This had been to fan the flames of the conflict between the two princes and agitate their followers, and once the chaos had gone on for a while, the ideal plan had been to somehow rope in Prince Rozeth into it all.
If the blame of the assassination of the First Prince was directed towards the Second Prince, and then the Third Prince who had been mostly been ignored as a very ignorant prince-for-show joined the battle for throne, it wasn’t hard to imagine that there would be some supporters of the First Prince that would come out and support the Third Prince.
Since it seemed nobody had much expectations for the Third Prince and as such it seemed like he didn’t have much power, becoming his supporter early on and then helping him rise all the way up to the crown would be like getting your hands on the authority of the Royal Family. That was the reason that a lot of families jumped to support Prince Rozeth.
“And aiming for the chance created by the chaos in the Royal Family is none other than the Na’Hatome Empire.”
“Has their involvement in this been made clear?”
“We haven’t found any clear evidence, but their army beginning to move with such timing suggests a lot.”
As soon as the knight unit had gone underground to rescue the Prince, an emergency message had been relayed from the fortress in the west that the army Na’Hatome had been begun to show some suspicious activity. After that, all contact with the western fortress had been cut off, and the flying dragons of the airborne troops had been mobilized to scout the area and get a clearer idea of what was happening.
In the north-west of Grandahl, a huge lake continued along the border which also straddled some territory of Eiyoa. The Na’Hatome army was planning to invade through a small corridor that extended all the way from the south to inland formed by a gap between that lake and a gulf. The western fortress was the first line of defense against the invading Na’Hatome army.
These past few years, after facing defeat after defeat from Grandahl ruled by King Leozeos, the Na’Hatome Empire had begun to focus more on things like their domestic industry, and even though there had been some skirmishes on the borders, they had showed no signs of starting a full invasion.
In particular, they had been sinking lots of resources into developing mechanization technology, and the senior officers of the Grandahl army all agreed that they were probably focusing on mechanical weapons to counter the magical technology of Grandahl.
“Since they had improved technology for their army, they decided to resume their invasion, huh?”
As the outline of the details behind the string of incidents that had been happening in the Royal Palace were being discussed, a messenger arrived with a report.
“Announcement. Just now, the Na’Hatome army crossed the border, and is advancing into Ariatorune. Presently, the border patrol is cooperating with the city’s guards and are engaged in battle with them.”
“What happened to the regular army that had been stationed there?”
“It seems like most of the army stationed in Ariatorune have left for the fortress to provide relief.”
Ariatorune was a city to the south of and about half-a-day’s distance from the western fortress, and it served as a base to supply the western fortress with supplies. If this city was taken, the western fortress would be isolated.
“According to the report from the scouting team, half of the fortress has collapsed, and black smoke can be seen rising from it…”
There were also reports of a large, siege weapon type object seen in use by the enemy army. The battle from the fortress was still continuing, but with the outer wall collapsed, it couldn’t hold for much more than a few days.
“Losing that city will be bad for us. Prepare to send reinforcements immediately.”
Leozeos instructed them to send reinforcements immediately to solidify the defense of the city, and if the fortress was still standing, to have the airborne troops to support them. The troops would be transported using magic vessels. In order to command the transportation corps and the reinforcements, some of the present officers bowed in front of the King and hurriedly left the throne room.
And then, as if switching places with them, another messenger brought a new report. For one report to reach the King, a messenger had to cross the entirety of the Royal Palace and bring the report to the top floor of the Palace, which was very inefficient.
“I guess I should move to the Army Headquarters soon…”
As he had given his sons an outline of what had been happening in the castle and who had been behind it, Leozeos considered changing his location as he unreservedly stroked Kou’s head which seemed to be at just the right height. For some reason Sayaka was taken aback.
“Announcement. We’ve received reports that a fleet with ships resembling that of Na’Hatome’s warships have been sighted to the south of the neighboring country of Eptita.
“The south of Eptita? Umu…So that’s their move.”
As Leozeos was about to leave the throne room, he stopped and fell in thought after hearing that report. Layos and Suaro, who were following after him, exchanged glances and started discussing the fact that it had “appeared in that place suddenly”.
Kou, who’s hand had been taken by Sayaka, had never heard of such a place, and asked Sayaka about “Eptita”.
“Eh? Er…I’m not that familiar with it myself–”
“Eptita is one country from among a group of small countries in the southeast of Grandahl, and a satellite state of Grandahl.”
When Sayaka couldn’t answer very well, Rozeth answered for her. On the peninsula extending out to the southeast of Grandahl were a lot of small countries made up of cities and tribes, and one of those countries which shared borders with Grandahl and was relatively larger than the rest was Eptita.
It’s capital Penta was the in the center, and it had two port cities; one in the north and one in the south. Near its western border was a city called Pulse, and this city had a lot of cultural exchange with the city near it on the other side of the border, Barasse.
“A neighbor of Barasse, huh.”
“The city in which Kou woke up?”
“Yup, there are some people living there who took care of me.”
The country of Eptita which had been protected so far by Grandahl due to its location didn’t have enough power to retaliate against Na’Hatome, and depending on the size of the fleet, the whole southeastern peninsula could be taken over by the Na’Hatome army, and it would become center to attack Grandahl from two sides.
In response to the Leozeos’s concern, the messenger which had come bearing the report said that according to info which they had obtained from a fisherman from the port city, the size of the fleet was about 20 ships.
“We have no way of getting a detailed breakdown, but according to the witness, most of the ships were transport ships.”
“In that case, it’d be safe to assume that they are carrying at least 1500 soldiers.”
Leozeos guessed that it was not a plan to take over the southeastern peninsula, but actually a plan to cross Eptita and start a disturbance at the back of the country. He ordered that the regular army stationed at Curacall should be moved to the city of Barasse.
The King, and everyone else, including the Princes and the officers headed towards the Army Headquarters, while Kou and Sayaka were told to return to the laboratory. From here on, a lot of meetings discussing things such as military maneuvers and other things important for the survival of the county would be held, so members of the public could not be present. Layos also reluctantly let go of Sayaka after kissing her.
Usually, Sayaka would immediately avert her eyes after being kissed, but today she looked directly at him even after being kissed.
“…I’ll leave after a more deep ki–”
“Just hurry up and go already~!”
Layos was sent off being scolded by Sayaka, whose face had gone red.