Feeling something soft on my lips, I woke up. Not willing to part with this feeling, I kept my eyes closed and enjoyed it. A soft something slowly entered my mouth. Enjoying it with my everything, I opened my eyes. I was greeted with Mei’s beautiful face.
「It’s morning, Master」
Mei’s body is warm. It’s just perfect since the temperature became colder recently. Only after hugging Mei and tasting her lips once again did I got up from the bed. Mei too stood up and dressed.
「Is something wrong?」
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「I’m not able to see your beautiful body anymore」
She showed a smile on her face and silently became naked once again. Her appearance in the rays of the morning sun was like that of a piece of art. I couldn’t help but become mesmerized.
「Master……too, it’s morning…….」
Assumed a troubled expression Mei. I came back to myself, wore some clothes, and came down to the dining room with Mei.
After eating breakfast prepared by Peris, I rode on Irimo to the imperial palace. When I arrived, I saw about 100 knights lined up before the palace gates. Besides them, there was also an old general on the horse. It was Rafaiens.
「Sorry for the trouble. Shall we depart? 」
The knights moved without disrupting their formation. I had Irimo run next to Rafaiens.
「You are good at handling horses」
「No, this horse is just excellent」
「It seems to have a rather short stature, I see, it’s indeed a smart horse」
He couldn’t see her horn and wings but even like that, this general was able to feel her splendor.
「Can I ask you something?」
「What could it be?」
「How did Oshe and his men lose?」
「Why are you interested?」
「No, you can’t learn much from a victory but you can learn a lot from a defeat. You can think that I ask it for the sake of the future」
「Well. I don’t really mind…..」
I told him about the fight yesterday. Regarding the geryons, I told that it was a coincidence.
「…..I see. First time entering the forest and even with an unstable footing. A suicidal act. Most likely, they were shaken by an unexpected ambush from your troops. The vanguard retreated but the earth turned into a mess because of the horses. At that point, they were attacked by the geryons from the side. Oshe did well surviving that」
「Eh, I didn’t hear much about the retreat but I think they did well」
「Did Oshe say something?」
「…..No, nothing important. His face was pale, his breathing was rough, and he couldn’t say a complete sentence. A man named Kunogen currently acts as his substitute」
「Kunogen, huh. If it’s him, he can handle the troops. I see, so it was Kunogen, who ordered the retreat. A fortune amongst the misfortune」
The general looked into the distance with a lonely expression as he nodded to himself.
「Rinos-dono, I wish to increase our speed. Are you okay with this? 」
「Yes, no problem」
Rafaiens rode his horse with an incredible speed. The knights were able to match his speed without any problem. Both Irimo and I followed after the general in a hurry.
It takes 1 day to reach the Kurumfar mansion from the imperial palace on foot. It takes half a day on a horse but, with our speed, we arrived in just three hours.
Rafaiens’ speed finally dropped. Despite running for so long, his breathing didn’t change much. This uncle and his men are surprisingly competent.
Upon arrival to the hotel, Rafaiens immediately headed toward the room where Oshe and the others were detained. According to Kuena, except for having a bit of soup yesterday, they neither ate nor slept.
The suite room was tightly guarded. I told Pius about the general’s arrival and had him open the door. As I entered, I saw the three sitting in the same places they were before with Kunogen silently sitting to the side. And around them, there was a circle of Pius’ mercenaries.
As he looked around the room, Rafaiens discovered Kunogen, nodded at him, and quietly sat before across Oshe.
His body trembled and he slowly raised his head. His face looked terrible. And, once he saw the old general, his eyes opened wide and he started trembling.
「You don’t have to talk. I heard about yesterday from Rinos-dono. You did something utterly stupid. Do you know why did you lose that fight? 」
Oshe’s head dropped down.
「Kunogen, are you aware?」
「…….Without taking the situation into account, he irresponsibly moved his troops, I guess」
「Well, you aren’t wrong but that’s not what I want to hear」
「Oshe, you lost this fight because you were supposed to lose. The reason being, you moved the troops without my permission. You defeat was predetermined the moment you lied to me and moved the troops at your own convenience」
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He spoke gently but his every word had a tremendous weight behind it. Oshe was about to cry.
「Your Excellency…….this failure was brought by me……..I have no excuses」
「That’s right, Kunogen. You, who didn’t stop Oshe, have to share the responsibility too. However. You did well ordering that retreat. Most likely, at that point, you have already assumed command of the retreating troops. It wasn’t an appropriate conduct but considering Oshe’s state at that moment you didn’t have much choice. You did a good job. You can praise the retreating squad」
Kunogen’s voice was hoarse and Oshe’s head still hung low.
「Oshe, Kunogen, let’s go back to the capital. We need to return the soldiers to the capital too. As for you, you can do what you want. Prime Minister Guremont wanted your execution or exile but I don’t think so. It happens that I’m in charge of your treatment. I’m thinking about pardoning you. Rinos-dono, you may not be convinced with just this but can you agree with me? 」
Rafaiens stood up and turned towards me, who was standing in the back.
「That’s how it is」
The commander of the northern army lowered his head.
「From my subordinates’ misconduct, I want so offer my sincere apologies」
「……….Understood. Please raise your face」
「I’m grateful, Rinos-dono. In the future, I’ll make sure to make amends. If something ever happens, please make sure to tell this Rafaiens. I’ll do as much as I can to help you」
「Likewise. Even though I had no choice, I did inflict serious casualties on the Northern Army. I express my condolences for the victims」
Oshe and Kunogen cried. They cried a lot. Jiono and Gragoleir watched it happen with pale faces.
「Well then, Baron Jiono and Baron Gragoleir. You are the nobles of the empire, not my subordinates. However, a sin in a sin. When you reach the capital, I will personally watch over you. This morning, when I departed from the imperial capital, I received a direct order from His Majesty. It seems that His Majesty wishes to speak with you personally」
As if all the power left their bodies, Jiono’s and Gragoleir’s heads hung low.
The captured four were detained by the general. As always, Oshe couldn’t walk by himself and relied on Kunogen.
Meanwhile, I ordered for Tohotsu and Kairiku to release the captives and prepare to hand them to Rafaiens. And once the general mounted his horse once again,
「Well then, I shall return to the imperial capital immediately. Rinos-dono, let us see each other again there」
he said and departed. As I saw him off with my eyes, I ordered the harpies to watch over them. I don’t think that Rafaiens will try to launch another attack on me but just to make sure, I tracked them with the harpies and on the「Map」.
However, I was concerned for no reason. Rafaiens expressed his gratitude to the people of Kairiku and Tohotsu, gathered the captives, and departed just like that. At the same time, he efficiently gathered the bodies of the dead.
「Impressive. That’s how a soldier should be」
「General Rafaiens in a famous individual. Indeed, when you look at him up close, you can understand why he is revered by the people so much」
「Manipulating people with emotion. We should learn from him」
I spoke to Pius as the general left.
A week later, Rafaiens stood before the throne of the emperor of the Hideta Empire, Hideta Shua Hito, with his head lowered.
「So, how did you settle those two?」
「I had Oshe retire. He can’t talk and walk properly, any further military service is impossible for him. I sent him in Kesherina for his retirement」
「Fumu, Kesherina, is it? It’s a warm land in the south. This place is perfect for recuperation」
「Yes. Most likely, it isn’t something that can be easily fixed but I still hope that he will be able to spend his life there peacefully」
「So, what about the other one?」
「I had Kunogen retire too. However, letting go of his talent will threaten the empire……..」
「Are you saying that you restricted him just like Jiono and Gragoleir?」
「Well, something like that. I sent him to work under a trustworthy person」
「I see. You can just expel a soldier and that’s the end of the story but that won’t work against the nobility. It will be a pain to decide on the next successors of their respective families」
「Your words are full of wisdom」
「That being said, Honorary Marquis Versam’s skill is superb. Hearing the story from you, I had my heart racing first time in a long while. I will hear the story from him personally at a later date but that would be the same as asking him to brag」
「Yes. One should never be hostile with that person. From this perspective, I deeply admire His Majesty for having Ricolette-sama marry him so fast」
「No, I just made this proposition because I thought that he suits Ricolette」
「That person is loved by the gods」
「By the gods, huh」
「『God of War』 if I’m to put it into words. I sincerely don’t wish to be his enemy」
「『God of War』. How reliable. Even though it’s only on paper but Honorary Marquis Versam is something like my brother. Let’s not think about this too deeply」
Autumn was encroaching on both, the imperial capital and the Kurumfar territory.