While Luke was in the Southern Continent, the civil war in the Baroque Empire was deepening.
While the Central army’s commander Count Ferrero led the troops to the south towards Marquis Mayers, Rudolf had led the eastern troops with the support of the Knights of Guard to attack the western.
“What? The Tyrant Emperor is coming?”
Duke Butler jumped out of his seat at the report from the soldier.
He had never thought that the Emperor would make a move in the rainy season.
“If he is crossing the mountain. It must be his intention to hit the rear of our army.”
The young knight in a bright armor said while showing the images of a map.
His name was Axel de Vanden, the lord and Marquis of Vanden, the largest manor of the west after Duke Butler.
He was the personal student and son-in-law of Duke Butler.
As he was the genius who became a Sword Master at a young age and was one of the greatest lords, Duke Butler got his daughter married to him.
He was proficient at geography, strategy, and Vanden was actually made as the chief of Duke Butler.
“The Miral area where are military troops are currently stationed at is to the north of Dris mountain and south to Dnar mountain. And in the east is the Orlan castle could the Emperor be…”
“If the Emperor plans to cross the mountain and block the rear, we will be blocked.”
At the words of Butler and Vanden, the commanders of the Western Army shrouded.
In numbers, the Western Army was definitely more, but the total power was just equal.
The skills and equipment of each of a single Knight of Guards were known to be the strongest in the Empire, and the volunteers from the east were elite soldiers trained in a constant border disputes with the Holy Empire.
In addition, there were a lot of problems within the Western Army.
For starters, there were a lot of heads, and there were a lot of military supplies that were brought in. Also, there were quite a few new lords who just joined the noblemen.
Problems such as minute disputes could be fine, but during urgent situations, it could cause a catastrophe.
And the heads couldn’t even say anything to them.
“Duke Sire, our supply will get delayed due to the rainy season, and if the rear is cut off, all out forces will be in trouble.”
“Count Stark is right. Even if it seems a little unreasonable, we might have to take an offensive stance.”
“We need to make a decision!”
If not, they could choose to retreat, but Duke Butler never retreated.
Duke Butler, who was listening to the words of the commanders turned his attention to a man with a different impression who was still looking down on the map with no word.
“What do you think, Count Voltas?”
The man Duke Butler asked was surprisingly Count Voltas.
He used to be the right arm of Emperor Rudolf.
His life which had been victorious—involved the failure of assassinating Aslan and the involvement of the Holy Empire.
In addition his son Lazlie, who had failed his mission and fell to hell.
After the bloody situation in the Imperial Parliament, the Emperor pursued Voltas to make him pay for the mistakes.
He hadn’t deprived the man of his merit, however, all the wealth and the title of Count had been confiscated and was thrown out of capital.
The family fell, but Count Voltas didn’t despair.
Rather, he escaped from that land and joined the western noblemen group.
And Duke Butler welcomed Voltas’s visit.
Voltas had long kept spies around Emperor Rudolf.
And the information Voltas knew was far too precious to just injure the man and throw him away because he was once their political opponent.
And that was why, he, serving as a member, participated in the meeting.
“I asked what you thought?”
At Butler’s second question, Voltas finally spoke.
“You think that Majesty will try and attack Orlan castle?” Asked Butler.
“Umm, right. If the enemy moves, I think that it won’t be too bad to aim for the empty castle”
If the Emperor was himself leading the army, the defense of the Orlan castle would be weakened.
From the Emperor’s point of view, the western army which would be in fear would try to retreat, but Butler’s thoughts were different.
Orlan Castle had military supplies in it, temporary problems could arise.
“Orlan Castle was the most important gateway to the capital. If they only occupy that place, they will have an open way to Nemesis.”
From the Orlan Castle to the capital Nemesis, there was only one large plain.
There were a few castles along the way, and they had no military power nor were they a threat to the Western Army.
So, he didn’t care if the castles ignored the troops.
In Butler’s point of view, Count Voltas nodded and said, “You are right. But, wouldn’t the Emperor think of that?”
Nemesis is the capital city or the Emperor’s city.
Since it is the center of the Emperor’s base and worth, if it was ravaged and occupied by the enemy, the political position and forces of theirs would weaken.
“And so? But didn’t you just say that most castles are empty on the way?”
“Orlan Castle could be a harder opponent than assumed. The castle has triple walls and 100 large-sized canons, and there are traps to prevent the advances of the Gigants. In addition, the castle’s internal structure is complex, and can cause significant damage to the opponent.”
If something went wrong, the rear of the troops would get blocked reaching the Orlan Castle, and Count Voltas thought that the Emperor could face a counter-attack.
“Hmm, then what do you think we should do?”
“Then, we need to hit the Emperor while he crosses the mountain.”
“Do we know where they will come from?”
They were only aware of the extent of the mountain but nor the location from where the Emperor would come.
Sending in troops to locate the enemy and ambush them in advance wasn’t an easy task to perform.
Moreover, it would be difficult to identify the enemy’s advancing because of the heavy fog in the mountains during the rainy season.
But Count Voltas thought of something.
“There are many small and large mountain paths in Dris and Dnar, but the only fine enough route over Dris is the Perio highway. That is the only good road on the mountain path, and it will even shorten the march time.”
He pointed to the man and spoke.
“If we can go half-day on the road and make our camp, it could be a good place to ambush. If we can hit the Emperor’s advances from there, we might actually win. Hopefully takedown Rudolf.”
At the words of Count Voltas, one of the commanders, Count Stark refuted.
“What if the Emperor is already occupying the land there?”
“That sounds plausible… however, such a situation wouldn’t arrive as you assumed. The canyon is a lot closer to us than the marching squad of the Emperor, so we will be the ones to get there.”
“Ung, that is something you are thinking.”
Count Stark’s eyes were full of hostility and contempt.
Shortly before the bloody ceremony took place, he and Duke Butler had managed to escape the capital.
However, quite a few nobles had died, and some of them were his close friends.
It wasn’t just that, the lovely retainers who were left behind in the capital mansion were all assassinated by the tyrant emperor.
The trouble wasn’t just with Rudolf, but also Voltas who always stayed by him was currently trying to sweet-talk them.
“I don’t know about the others here, but I doubt you.”
At the word of Stark, Voltas’s face hardened.
“You are suspicious, do you think that I am a spy sent in by Rudolf?” Asked Voltas.
“Since there are a lot of doubts here, I can’t just say no. It could be true that you escaped from that place alone, but joining us so shamelessly.”
“What did you say? Shameless? Are you saying such words not knowing in what state I had arrived here?”
Voltas’s face was red as he got up from his seat.
His eyes were boring into Stark’s when he tore off his coat and shirt.
On his skin lied terrifying scars.
Traces of being beaten with whips, and poked with awls and skin torn apart.
However, even more surprising was the right arm which got cut off in the middle.
The hand which he had used to point the map was a prosthetic.
Since he had covered his hand with a full glove, no one was able to notice it.
“Oh, Oh my…!”
“That is terrible!”
Although Duke Butler and Marquis Vanden knew something had happened to him, the other nobles were quite shocked.
It was the same with Count Stark, who has suspected Voltas a second back.
“Look at me carefully. This is how the man who was loyal to the Emperor had been treated…”
“I surely made a terrifying mistake. I never believed my son’s skills. And I was prepared to get punished for the mistakes. But to treat a long line of loyal men like traitors!”
Voltas was crying out in a desperate tone almost as if he was trying to reason with Rudolf.
“The tyrant emperor had defiled my body and stripped of my title and wealth and my pride! And raped my wife and daughter right in front of my eyes! And told me he would take my hand off rather than my neck after making me witness that!”
It was terrifying how Voltas was trembling and crying by falling on the ground.
“How could he… how could this happen? After all I…”
Voltas’s feeling of betrayal from the Emperor was huge.
In fact, no noble would be subjected to such a harsh torture unless they have committed to a heinous crime.
And in terms of honor, it was known to kill them neatly.
However, Rudolf didn’t just torture Voltas, he cut off his right arm too.
Cutting off the arm was a punishment for pickpocketing or stealing on streets.
In other words, the emperor treated Voltas, who had lived loyal to the Imperial family the same as any roadside thief.
From the point of view of Voltas, who had always lived in the capital with his family, it was more insulting than dying.
“Calm down, Count Voltas.”
Marquis Vanden, with a sad expression, took off his cloak and covered Voltas’s body.
And spoke to the commanders who were still in shock.
“I was the one who found Count Voltas when he escaped and brought him to our camp. If he causes any problem, I will take full responsibility.”
It was marquis Vanden who had brought Voltas out of the hell hole.
Luke, Duke Butler, and Vanden paid attention to the value of the man.
And as Vanden had the second largest position in the western army after Butler, the other commanders and nobles remained silent.
Marquis Vanden then continued to speak.
“The Emperor is going to be the same, and we have nothing to do but go for the civil war. I can’t place my full belief in Marquis Mayers or the south, and the behavior of the neutral lords is unusual.”
The neutral lords who seemed to be joining the nobles at the start were turning passive.
There were reports of them joining a third party which centered on power made by someone unknown, and doubtful of the Emperor’s mind.
“Marquis Vanden is right. We need to take the opportunity and blow the throat of the Emperor, or at least strike close for his destruction. That way, we will be able to take the initiative of the Empire as the western lords.”
Butler agreed with Vanden’s words.
The words of taking the initiative of the Empire were like a wind of fresh air for the western nobles.
Even if they belonged to the noblemen collectively, no noble had the intention of sharing power with the southern lords who new only tricks and money.
“We will follow Count Voltas’s plan. So hurry up and get ready to move.”
After the meeting was done, all the commanders scattered quickly.
Voltas, who returned to his barracks, laughed gladly when the operation was accepted.
“Now it will be decided. My destiny…”
Voltas went out of barracks and looked at the Dris mountain which was in distance.
The mountain was dimly covered by rain clouds.
Which represented that the future was unknown.