Zero no Tsukaima:Volume7 Chapter4
Chapter Four: The Secretary and the Emperor
In Albion's capital city Londinium, there was a heated discussion going on over the sortie at White Hall.
Because the Albion army was attracted to Dartanes by Louise's "Illusion", they let the chance to defeat the enemy army at the coast escape. If they had properly assaulted the enemy as they landed in Rosais, it would have been possible to chase the enemy from Albion to Halkeginia...
"Now that the enemy has finished disembarking and set up camp, it would be suicidal to attempt a counterattack from this side."
At a round table where about fifteen people sat, a young general sitting on the north side said in exhaustion. It was just like he said. Half of Albion's air force, that had forty vessels left, were sunk in the battle the other day, while the remaining ships had received heavy damage. They couldn't even sortie ten ships.
On the other hand, Tristain and Germania's combined fleet lost twelve vessels and eight received heavy damage, but there were still forty able to fight. They had complete air superiority in this situation.
On top of that, the number of people in the Albion army were decreasing. At the battle of Tarbes, they lost three thousand, and the loss the other day caused the morale of the entire army to drop; some groups ended up deserting. The vigor shown during the revolution was no longer there.
Against the sixty-thousand who claimed air superiority, there was no way they could continue attacking. Stares of blame were focused on Cromwell, the Holy Albion Republic Chairman and first Albion Emperor, who was sitting in the middle.
Because after failing many strategies, he had let the enemy land.
However, Cromwell shook off the stares... and remained nonchalant.
General Hawkins, who was substantially taking command of Albion's main force, spoke,
"The inversion is my miss. I let the opportunity to annihilate the enemy in one move, escape. There are no words to apologize."
"Our army is in rags," Cromwell smiled.
"And the operation to take the children at the academy hostage failed as well."
Even though he failed, it didn't seem like he was troubled over it.
With a sigh and in a tired voice, Hawkins said,
"The magic weapons the enemy used were stronger than we imagined."
The black-covered secretary behind Cromwell, Sheffield, nodded and read the report written on the parchment.
"The 'Illusion' that appeared near Dartanes stayed for thirteen hours and suddenly disappeared afterwards."
"It is just a makeshift magic that creates illusions. What is there to fear?"
"It had an enormous effect."
Hawkins said, closing his eyes. Confusion through illusions caused the army to be brought back... In other words, it was creating an effect that was no different from a military force of tens of thousands. He couldn't make light of this as just an illusion.
"To be honest, I am afraid of the enemy. Besides the illusion at Dartanes, the enemy uses many unknown magic. That magic light which destroyed our fleet..."
Cromwell faced Sheffield and nodded.
Sheffield once again read the parchment in a well resounding voice, like a choir singing a hymn in a temple.
"It is concluded... that the enemy is not in the condition to attack with the light that annihilated our fleet at Tarbes."
"Why is that?
"If they were to use it, they would have used it in the fleet battle before landing the other day."
"The possibility they are reserving it for later?"
"The enemy army would have been in a devastating situation if they lost that fleet battle. If they were to use everything they could, then, most certainly, they would have released that 'miraculous light'. But the enemy fought conventionally. Though our army lost regardless."
"It is fine if we win on land," Cromwell took over for her.
Hearing this, the headquarter's staff general stood up.
"Your Excellency, the general staff assumes that the enemy is headed to capture the city of Saxe-Gotha. This is..." Tapping the tip of his staff on the map on the table, he explained.
"It is the meeting point of the main road and an important metropolis. As a factor that supports the assumption, the enemy's reconnaissance has become active around here. A few days ago, dragon knights, thought to be for reconnaissance purposes, came flying and fought with our army's dragon knight squadron. We should position our main forces in City of Saxe-Gotha and wait for the enemy."
The other generals raised voices of approval. It was a plausible strategy.
However, Cromwell shook his head.
"The main forces will not move from Londinium."
"Do you plan to sit and wait for defeat?"
Hawkins looked at Cromwell as if he was a child who refused to let his toys get taken away. Cromwell shook his head once again.
"General, I do not mind if the city of Saxe-Gotha is taken."
"You give the enemy a strategic base right under your nose. The enemy will probably replenish their low supplies at the metropolis and rest."
"We will not give them supplies."
"Take all of the food away from the residents."
Hawkins was at a loss for words. What a... Cromwell was trying to use the residents of Saxe-Gotha.
"The enemy will end up having to give their little amount of food to the residents. It'll slow them down. This plan is wiser than rashly proceeding through a defensive battle and suffering losses."
"What will we do if the enemy abandons them! Many people will die from starvation!"
"That will not happen. What, even if the enemy abandons them, it is just one city. Between the importance of a country, it is a trivial sacrifice."
Those were cold words, unthinkable of an ex-prelate. However, what he said was right.
The allied forces did not invade to negotiate with Cromwell. They came to abolish Cromwell and dominate this land. Eight to nine chances out of ten, they would think about the civilians after the war and perform charity.
Still... What will we do if we win? At the worst, a whole metropolis could revolt. That is how fearful the resentment from food is.
"You plan to make a whole metropolis your enemy... Either way, there will be unpleasant aftereffects..."
"Why do you think I arranged for those sub-humans to be sent ahead? All we have to do is say it was their own decision."
It was unknown how, but Cromwell excelled in negotiation with sub-humans. Knowing that the sub-humans were sent ahead not for a normal army operation but for this kind of strategy, the generals were dumbfounded.
Their leader broke a treaty, not only used makeshift means to commence strategies, but finally planned to betray his own country's civilians through cowardly measures.
"I will also place a trap in the water of Saxe-Gotha."
"Do you plan to throw poison in the water? Something like poison will be quickly washed away."
"Not poison. 'Void'."
"That's right. It will become interesting. However, it will take time for the effects to work," Cromwell smiled.
Standing up... He raised his fist.
"Gentlemen, it's the Pentecost! Stop the enemy until then! When the Pentecost ends... 'Void' and the crossing of two staffs will drop the iron hammer upon our haughty enemies!"
The crossing of two staffs was the crest of the Gallia royal family.
"OHH! Finally, Gallia!" The conference room became excited.
"At that time, our army will advance! To demolish our haughty enemies! I promise you!"
Sensing the atmosphere on the grounds heating up, Cromwell walked briskly to the balcony.
The generals and cabinet ministers stood up and followed him.
"Let all of our cabinet ministers encourage our brave and loyal soldiers!"
Voices of jubilation surrounded Cromwell and the others.
In the vast courtyard once built to wait on the king's audience, crazily enthusiastic trust was being offered to Cromwell, and the monarch's guards were lining in rows.
Thousands of voices of jubilation reached him. Cromwell waved his hand to answer.
"The enemy has landed on fatherland! Everyone! I question you brave revolutionary soldiers! Is this defeat?"
"No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No!"
A ring of jubilation surrounded Cromwell.
"Exactly! This is not defeat! Absolutely not! I promise you victory! To you all, peerless, loyal, and brave who took the crown from that incompetent king, I promise you victory! Our haughty enemies will be destroyed when the Pentecost ends! They have touched God's wrath! Listen! Listen! The ones leading the lost Halkeginia are the civilians of Albion, who are chosen by God! For that reason, the Founder has entrusted power to me!"
There were numerous soldiers who died in battle lined up on the balcony.
Cromwell raised his ring up high.
Doing so... the dead soldiers revived and walked off.
"Everyone! As long as we have this 'Void', we cannot be defeated! Believe in me! Believe in our fatherland! Believe in 'Void', the power of us who were chosen by the founder!"
"Void! Void! Void! Void! Void! Void! Void! Void! Void! Void!"
"That's right, Void!" Cromwell swung his fist.
"The founder is with us! Do not fear! The founder is with us!"
The enthusiasm in the courtyard reached a climax. Cromwell shouted in a loud voice.
"Long live the revolution! Destroy the enemy!"
The enthusiasm even reached the balcony.
"Long live the revolution! Destroy the enemy! Long live the revolution! Destroy the enemy! Long live the revolution! Destroy the enemy!"
"Long live the Holy Albion republic!"
"Long live the Holy Albion Republic! Long live the Holy Albion Republic! Long live the Holy Albion Republic! Long live the Holy Albion Republic!"
"Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor!" One of the cabinet ministers stood up and shouted in a loud voice.
"Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor! Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor! Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor! Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor! Long live our Highness the Holy Emperor!"
The endless shouting was sucked into the air.
After the wildly enthusiastic audience...
Cromwell was sitting, troubled, in a gigantic private room that was once the King's bedroom. His body was shaking slightly.
Sheffield was standing in front of him, whispering to him while looking down at him.
"That was a brilliant speech, Prelate."
The man, who was called a prelate in his previous position, as if falling off the chair, kneeled down at Sheffield's feet.
The mask of dignity he had shown earlier had been blown off.
Just a man in his thirties that was panicking in fear, just a thin man who was nothing but a prelate was there.
"Ohhhhhhh! Miss! Miss Sheffield! That person! Will that person really send soldiers to this abominable country? This is not the words of that general just not... I! I am scared! I, a thin man who can't even control magic, am afraid!"
To Cromwell, Sheffield spoke in a voice as if to comfort a child.
"What are you saying. To be afraid now! The one who said 'I want to be King' at that bar was you. Because I was impressed by those candid words, I decided to give you, as my master, Albion."
"Perhaps a mere prelate has dreamed too much... Tempted by you and 'that person', I obtained The Ring of Andvari, collected nobles that held contempt towards the royal family, and excuted my revenge on Albion's royal family who had humiliated me... To a point, it was fun. Oh it was fun, it was like I was dreaming."
"It's that simple."
"Ohh, just this continent above the sky is too much for an accessory like me... Why was it necessary to invade Tristain and Germania?"
"How many times does it take for you to understand. It is necessary to join Halkeginia into one. To recover the Holy Land is the only way to follow the Founder and God's will."
"To me, that is a part of being a clergyman. Though there is no mistake that recovering the Holy Land is a dream..."
"Then continue to dream."
"The responsibility is too heavy! The enemy has invaded! Enemy in my country! The enemy has come to hang me like those incompetent kings! What should I do?! Tell me this isn't a nightmare. Miss..." Smiling, Sheffield squatted down in front of Cromwell and looked into his tear-soaked face. Cromwell raised his face. Lifting up his chin, Sheffield... "Stop acting spoiled," whispered quietly.
The polite and warm demeanor just now had disappeared, and Sheffield had made a complete change into a raptores-like face.
Her brunette hair, like deep darkness, fluttered and the eyes below it were releasing a bewitching radiance. Taken in by those eyes, Cromwell began to tremble.
"You dream a sweet molasses-like dream that a normal priest couldn't see even if he reincarnated a hundred times and now you say you don't want to see a nightmare? 'My country'? Your land doesn't even stretch fifty centimeters on this uselessly destitute country Albion."
"I'm! I'm very sorry!"
Cromwell slid his face on the floor beside Sheffield's feet. Sticking out his tongue, he licked Sheffield's shoes.
"Forgive me... Fo, forgive me... Ha, hagi... Forgive me..."
"The Ring of Andvari."
Timidly, Cromwell handed the ring he was wearing to Sheffield.
Treasure of the Water Spirit, the magic ring that can grant the dead false life...
Cromwell remembered the day where he went with Sheffield and Gallia's mage knights to Ragdorian Lake to steal this ring from the Water Spirit.
What caused the start of everything was him talking at a bar. He was heading towards Gallia's capital, Lutèce, because he was delivering something...
Cromwell was treating a beggar to a bottle of wine.
"Prelate, as thanks for the wine, I will grant you one thing you wish. Tell me."
Being told that by the beggar, Cromwell said as a joke,
"Let's see, I want to be king."
"King, is it?"
The beggar, with his face covered in a deep rope, smiled and asked.
"Yes," Cromwell nodded.
Of course, he meant it to be a joke. Playing around after drinking. He wasn't serious about it. However, the next morning... This Sheffield came to the lodge he was staying at. She exclaimed,
"I will make you king. Follow me."
At that moment, his life as a local prelate delineated to a different path. At a violent momentum...
Sheffield was patting The Ring of Andvari dearly.
The stone on the ring was, enchantingly, glowing deep light blue.
"What do you think is the power stored in this ring?"
Cromwell shook his head. He knew that it could revive corpses. That is the truth. There is no way he could know about the mechanisms of Void.
"Unable to control magic, I do not know. You are the one who told me to call this power 'Void', right?"
"Do you know about 'wind stones'?"
Cromwell nodded. It is the material used to allow flying ships to float. A magic stone said to be the condensed power of Wind. There are countless mines for digging out wind stones in Albion.
"This is a similar substance."
"Then it isn't 'Void'?"
"Correct, this is not 'Void'. 'Wind stones' and this 'Ring of Andvari' are just drops of the source of the powers that rule this world. This is the material that becomes the source of power called Ancient Magic. There are all kinds of names it is called by though. Sage's Stone, Orb of Life... Historically, it would be called 'Void's enemy'..."
"I am constantly impressed by the profoundness of your knowledge."
"That is why every time it is used, its magic is whittled and it gets smaller. See."
"The point is, this is a crystallization of the Ancient Magic of Water. The condensed magic hidden in this is incomparable to the wind stones common around here... A rare stone. Which is the reason this is the protected treasure of the Water Spirit... The Ring of Andvari. In other words, the ancients' treasure..."
Sheffield stared at the ring.
Doing so... Her forehead started to shine.
The light was flowing from inside.
When Cromwell first saw this light, he was surprised. When Sheffield touched this 'Ring of Andvari', her forehead shone.
Are there times when people's foreheads shine?
Even when he asked Sheffield, she did not answer. This mysterious female would not teach him anything that mattered, anything essential. She only handed down orders.
With the stone, Sheffield lightly combed Cromwell's cheek.
Cromwell twitched and shivered. The Ring of Andvari vibrated slightly. Just touching it made him feel like an electric current was running through him.
When it touched Sheffield's hand, the Ring of Andvari awoke... it was that kind of vibration.
"Do you know? The trait of the power of Water?"
"That is on the surface. The power of 'Water' rules over the body's constitution. The heart too."
"Moving corpses is only one of the powers this ring holds."
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