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They had to deal with the Duke of Carta and others in the east after sending the great nobles of the south. Leonis’ closest aides had been unable to return until that point and were growing dissatisfied.
They knew that this battle had suffered little damage. However, there was only ‘almost’, and war cost a lot of money and took a lot of lives.
In addition to the money and food needed to maintain the army, they even emptied the city in preparation for this battle. The losses sustained there were incalculable.
It was midnight after sending all of the high-ranking nobles. The Duchess herself came forward in the middle to offer comfort to the vassals and serve meals, but their dissatisfaction grew like a cloud.
“…… You must have waited a long time.”
Leonis entered the room, trying to hide his irritation. Leonis’ eyes shined seriously as he looked around the large meeting area at the faces of the vassals.
“You have a disgruntled expression on your face.”
“Don’t you know why we are dissatisfied?”
Someone had the audacity to tell Leonis this, yet all Leonis could do was laugh. The reason why the army of the Duke of Cardian was able to achieve a complete victory was because they had been prepared for it.
Leonis also knew that his vassals had, of course, borne the financial burden of the preparation.
“Do you believe that Michael is no longer alive? That fox?”
After hearing Leonis’ statements, the vassals were stunned into silence. Leonis stared each of his vassals in the eyes while his face was ablaze with anger.
“If I had mentioned anything to them, they would have thought I was insane or afraid. But all of you are different. I have no intention of giving them the honour without shedding a single drop of blood.”
Things of secondary importance were the interests, territory, and income that they offered. If he is elevated to the position of emperor, he will be obligated to correct the wrongs, which may result in more blood being shed.
“The Duchy of Cardian is the land we know best. You know very well that there can only be one winner in this war. Michael would have known that. That he will not be able to defeat me on this land.”
“Your Excellency…… Do you think this is a trap to draw us out?”
“Remember what he did to me. There was an attack by an unknown monster. If Phil is not the one responsible for this, whose is it?”
A different expression appeared on the faces of the vassals. The war, which everyone believed to be over, had actually only just begun.
“There are already rumours about me in the capital, and the public opinion of the nobles in the capital is already leaning towards the Cardian family.”
“Do you think Michael might throw away the whole capital? Either he draws in outside forces or…”
When someone from his entourage opened his mouth, the vassals also began to express their opinions. Although many knights and soldiers were by Leonis’ side during the victory procession, it was evident that it was a prime opportunity for an assassination.
“We should also think about protecting the Duchess.”
Michael wasn’t the only one who wanted to kill Celia. If they get rid of Celia from Leonis’ side, they can offer their daughter.
It wasn’t just Leonis’ guess that Michael was setting a trap in the capital. It was also because he was caught carrying supplies to the secret passage leading to the imperial palace.
In addition, the wizards also reported that there was an abnormality in the magic circle attached to the imperial palace in the capital, making it almost likely.
Even his most trusted advisors were at a loss to explain where the information was coming from. It was best to let him guess without providing any evidence for the time being.
So that high-ranking nobles can dismiss this information as the anxiety of those in power.
So they don’t end up in the most dangerous places during the victory parade?
‘Michael probably wants to get rid of everyone who could inherit the throne other than himself.’
Ironically, Leonis felt the same way. When he was hounded by the imperial family, they showed sympathy for him while also making fun of him. However, this time it upset him to fake a kindly attitude and remark, “If you want to become emperor, don’t you need my help?”
‘I have to tread on it first for Celia’s safety.’
If this had not been the case, they could have been bold enough to devise an outlandish scheme to kill Celia and replace her with either their own daughter or a member of the family they desired to rule as empress.
In addition, it would be fun to borrow the help of another person named Michael to cut out the roots of corrupt power. The problem was that he had to lure himself, the biggest bait, into the trap.
Michael would have been hiding outside the capital, as he was a shrewd and manipulative man. When he was cornered and trying to make a last-ditch effort to free himself, he might have made a beeline for Celia.
He was cursed, and everyone who was also cursed by God looked for a method to break free from the yoke of the curse.
Since Celia was the only one who could save him, Michael would never give up on her.
“Not a chance in hell. I’ll kill you, Michael.’
Simply trying to picture Michael extending a hand to Celia was enough to make him queasy. Leonis, who was daydreaming about holding her in his arms, was in charge of coordinating the thoughts of his entourage.
The meeting went on late into the night, contrary to his expectations.
✦ ✦ ✦
It was a battle that should have ended with Leonis’ victory. But making it that far was unplanned.
A moderate victory. He knew he could at least lose some power.
However, the result was a calamitous defeat. His elite were sucked into the pit of fire and slain before they could completely exhibit their abilities.
Although the soldiers were sent to die, Michael felt a chill in his spine, and the result was disastrous. He wouldn’t have been able to escape if he had stepped up there.
‘Of course, if it had been me, I wouldn’t have died that way!’
Didn’t he enlist the help of a few knights? However, it would only have marginally increased the harm, and the predicted death would still have occurred.
Michael considered it a stroke of good luck that they had avoided using the Duchy of Cardian as a battleground. This time, the soldiers summoned were only failures or those whose commitment was lukewarm.
He saw the wall absolutely vacant when he passed through the gate, so he handed his job to a soldier who resembled himself and slipped away.
‘What a bunch of shit!’
Even though it had been planned in advance, it was nonetheless a distressing sight to see his own soldiers being consumed by fire. He had anticipated that the fire would spread on both sides of the forest, so the trees were planted in advance and the magic that prevented them from igniting was cast.
However, he just knew that the magic was also hanging on the slope!
‘I’ve been making traps for such a long time…’
He knew Cardian’s vendetta against the imperial family. From the first Cardian to the present, they have been persecuted by the imperial family.
Even if it wasn’t revealed openly, there would be nothing to say because the first and second dukes instigated the death of the current emperor.
‘It would be a mistake if you thought it would end like this, Leonis.’
“I’ll give you hell,” whispered, as he disappeared into the darkness. It was not yet time to cut off his head.
✦ ✦ ✦
Unlike the Duchy of Cardian, which was jubilant, the capital was quiet. Michael, a traitor, was killed, but the real reason for his death was that he and the other aristocrats were still present in the capital.
According to their instructions, the four gates in the walls of the capital were firmly shut.
At the thought that they might stage a final stand, the citizens of the capital trembled while shutting themselves in their homes.
They were terrified that Prince Michael would summon the army, and take each family member away.
Nobody wants to die as part of a traitorous army.
Those in the capital who were wealthy or intelligent had already fled the city upon hearing the rumours that Prince Michael might be conscripted.
Those who remained in the city harboured the hope that the war would be won before Prince Michael was conscripted.
The news that the army that Prince Michael had assembled by gathering some of the nobles and members of the imperial family had suffered a humiliating defeat arrived, as was to be expected.
It was also reported that Prince Michael got caught up in it and died.
The citizens were delighted, but they couldn’t openly reveal it because nobles on Michael’s side continued to have sway over the armed forces.
They just waited with bated breath when the Duke of Cardian would liberate the capital.
The day eventually arrived.
The five ducal families had the honour of riding alongside the Duke of Cardian in exchange for interest, territory, and money.
High-ranking nobles lined up behind him, and his aides from the Duchy of Cardian were placed somewhat further behind. Naturally, they anticipated a negative response from the other party, but their faces showed that they were unmoved by the news.
‘It’s probably because they live in rural areas, so they know their places!’
The arrogant Duke of Balthazar made such a judgement.
The Duke of Cardian would no longer be a duke. Since he had risen to a higher position, the position of emperor, the people close to him were bound to change. They should have known that too.
As the army neared the capital, the gate was opened for them by the army soldiers who guarded the capital. Even though they weren’t waving a white flag, seeing them express their intention to surrender made the Duke of Balthazar feel better.
“Look at that! They seem to know their places too.”
Leonis replied with a languid look. The Duke of Balthazar frowned at Leonis’s response but thought he could not.
He was the man who would soon become emperor. If it had been possible, he would have usurped that power for himself, but he was the only one who had the courage to intervene.
All he had to do was stand by Leonis, lessen the blood he had to shed, and take his share like he always did.