༺ Warm Southern Territory (8) ༻
The ongoing war that had been going on for two years was continuously eroding the Empire’s prestige and national power in real-time. The more the war dragged on, the more the northern forces found themselves increasingly mired in a quagmire and struggled to contain their frustration.
The Northern nomadic tribes had never formed a single unified force before. Therefore, they were nothing more than targets that could be subdued whenever the Empire felt like it. Yet, it had been two years since the Empire had been hit hard by these very targets. A single nomadic person had managed to shatter the powerful military of the Empire.
It didn’t matter how strong Kagan was or how scary the united nomadic forces were. All the continent would remember was that ‘The Empire wasn’t able to defeat some mere nomads.’
“If we lose here, it’s the end of the Empire.”
It was a single statement of the Invincible Duke. Although one could say that his words were disloyal and depressing, no one could say anything to him. Everyone knew that losing this war would mean the end of the Empire. Even if Kefellofen survived, the Empire was finished.
If we couldn’t stop the man who called himself Kagan, the Empire would lose its justification to rule over the continent; if we couldn’t stop the nomadic tribes and allow the birth of a new Empire, our national power would be questioned.
Of course, the other nations also knew how strong Kagan was, but that didn’t matter. The Empire that used to dominate them was about to hit rock bottom, so they would probably start getting ready to tear it apart.
“The traitor was injured in the last battle.”
A battle against Kagan had taken place a few days ago, and we managed to inflict some significant injuries on him. In exchange, the 4th Manager and other important forces were transferred to the capital to receive intensive treatment. At least they weren’t dead.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“Can you do it?”
“I’ll do it, no matter what.”
And the Invincible Duke didn’t miss that opportunity. No, he couldn’t afford to lose it. This was the first time in two years that the usually invincible Kagan had been injured. When would such an opportunity come again? Certainly not while the Empire was still intact.
So now was the time. The Empire had to mobilize all available forces to capture Kagan, and those forces included me and the Team Managers of the 4th Division. We’d learned from past experiences that conventional tactics were meaningless against Kagan.
“Here’s a teleport scroll. The Mage Duchess has worked hard to make it.”
We would use that scroll to send Kagan to where the suicide squad was waiting. Of course, it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be easier than killing Kagan. Once we got close to him, teleporting him would be simple.
“The Empire’s fate rests on you guys.”
Fortunately, we managed to separate Kagan and his forces, and the Team Managers of the 4th Division who were waiting for Kagan succeeded in killing him.
Although five out of the seven fell and never rose again, it was nothing short of a miracle that two had survived.
But perhaps the miracle was intended for only one.
“I’m sorry, Carl.”
While returning to the capital, Hecate followed the other five.
In the end, I was the only one who survived among the suicide squad sent to kill Kagan.
* * *
It’s hard to stop remembering this much. No, they kept flooding back.
‘It’s not like I can erase the memories.’
Unfortunately, memories weren’t something one could control. Things you don’t want to remember suddenly come back to you, and when you try to put them away, they don’t.
Maybe it’s because the wound was touched unnecessarily, or maybe it’s because their anniversary was approaching. During the time I was sitting by the beach, so many old memories came flooding back.
Thankfully, it didn’t seem like I’d appeared too gloomy since neither side of me had asked how I was doing. Maybe it’s because time has taught me not to show my feelings as intensely as before.
“It was fun!”
Louise said while smiling brightly on the carriage back to the resort. Although she said she would return after taking a short break, she never got up from the mat. Because of that, the other club members crawled out of the sea, and the mat became fully occupied.
At least Louise went in and came out of the sea. But in the end, Marghetta never even dipped her feet in the water. It seemed like she didn’t care. But anyway, I nodded my head in response to Louise’s words.
“Yes. We enjoyed ourselves until the end.”
Of course, I wasn’t talking about me, but Louise. We were going to return to the Academy after tomorrow’s breakfast, so today was the last day.
“Can we come again next year?”
“Probably. It’s a shame to end it in just one year.”
Marghetta, who was sitting next to me, seemed to flinch at those words, but I deliberately turned my gaze away from her. It was a sad reality that there were always those who had fun and those who suffered in the Academy’s trips.
“Maybe we could go to another Duchy or the capital next year.”
Lather jokingly said, but the general response was good. Going to a different area didn’t sound bad, and seeing the prosperity of the capital was worth seeing.
I felt pity at the sight of Marghetta lowering her head. It seemed like she’d imagined herself planning a trip to the captial. Maybe we’ll actually see Marghetta abandoning the Student Council next year.
‘I also wouldn’t like to go to the capital.’
To think that the destination of the travel would be the place where I work. What kind of nonsense was that? If someone said that to me, I might slap them. Lather was royalty, though, so I couldn’t do that.
That’s how the carriage reached the resort, with people having mixed reactions to future possible destination ideas. It was when I was thinking that I should rest in the room before it was dinner time.
If the front employee hadn’t called me, I could have taken some rest.
The staff member placed a box on the desk as I approached the front desk after sending the kids up first.
“It’s something that His Grace the Duke has sent.”
“Yes. He said it was something you needed.”
Was there something he needed to send me? I told him to send the money directly to the Prosecutor’s Office, so there shouldn’t be anything. Since he said it’s something I needed, I hope it isn’t anything weird.
Inside the box, there were six bottles of a familiar wine brand. Wine, one of Boyar’s main products.
Wow, he remembered.
“Tell His Grace I said thank you.”
I closed the box again and took it. I had already received more than enough money for my service, but I have also received this. This was quite touching.
‘His skills in managing people are impressive.’
It was no wonder that the Gold Duke had such a broad influence.
Since I received something unexpected in an unexpected place, I had to inform someone.
— Who’s this? Aren’t you the guy who’s just been having a good time by the sea all by yourself?
“I’ve been working hard, so don’t I have the right to play a bit?”
I called the Minister for the regular report. He picked up immediately, so he must have been on a break.
“I got some wine, so you don’t have to buy it separately.”
I showed him the wine I had received from the Gold Duke. The Minister was originally the one who was going to buy it on my behalf, but since I had obtained it myself, he didn’t have to.
The Minister became momentarily silent and then showed me a basket.
— I bought them today.
There were six bottles of wine neatly arranged in the basket. It was wine from Boyar, the same ones the Gold Duke had given me.
— I even went out to buy it.
“Wouldn’t they like two bottles per person?”
— If they drink that much, they won’t be able to return to the heavens. How much do you plan to make them drink?
I touched the bottles at the words of the Minister. I thought this was great since the bottles of wine were expensive, so the Minister wouldn’t need to buy them. However, the timing was a bit off.
— By the way, where did you get those?
“The Gold Duke gave them to me.”
— Did he remember last year’s event?
I nodded at the question since that seemed to be the case.
Last year, by this time, we’d also tried to get some Boyar wine. However, due to various circumstances, the production was low and all available stock was sold out, so there was no way to get it.
In the end, as a last resort, I asked the Gold Duke. He was initially reluctant.
“Alcohol to use in a ceremony? You should have said that first.”
After I explained the situation to him, the Gold Duke immediately provided us with a few. However, I didn’t expect him to remember it this year, too, and provide them again.
— Still, I’m glad we won’t have to scramble at the last minute.
— It was hilarious to see how the guy who said he’d handle it couldn’t get them until the end.
As he revealed an embarrassing past, I had nothing to say about it. After all, I didn’t know that Boyar’s wine was so precious… I only thought of it as expensive wine.
— I will send a magician to the main building, so don’t forget.
“Don’t worry. If we’re talking about dementia, you should be more concerned about yourself than me.”
— You bastard.
The conversation ended with us giving blows at each other.
‘So he’s going to send a magician.’
I was planning to request one, but it seemed like he’d already done that. It was convenient and good.
After seeing that the communication crystal had lost its light, I carefully put down the wine. Each one was very valuable, so I had to handle them carefully.
“They say that Boyar wine’s delicious. Once we go to the capital, I will try it.”
“One glass probably costs your entire salary. What’s with the extravagance? Do you feel a sense of kinship with the deep red color that’s like the color of your blood?”
I never expected that the conversation I casually had with Ger would lead to this. Damn him; he could have just drunk any random wine. Why make such a fuss about Boyar wine and make me struggle like this?
Thanks to that, I was always struggling like this at their death anniversary. I wonder if those guys are aware of my hardships.
Gerard, you drunkard. If your soul still lingers somewhere, at least show up in my dreams. I went through a lot of trouble to get these, but we can’t even have a drink together.
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