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Chapter 286 – Emperor Moves (1)

    Chapter 286 - Emperor Moves (1)

    The capital of Andras, Belfor, resembled a well-refined sword from a bird's eye view.

    Straight buildings were laid out in straight lines, giving off the impression of 'efficiency.' It didn't really fit an architect's aesthetic, but there was no one who could dismiss the grandeur of the city.

    Above all, the towering spire in the center was crucial. Seven sword masters guarded the empire, so there were seven towers in the image of a crown that surrounded the imperial palace. This structure flashed with a bright aura that was equivalent to a master. It was illuminated night and day, proving the empire's greatness.

    Unlike Meltor, there was no meeting room in Andras' imperial palace. This was because the emperor determined the guidelines for everything. It was an absolute monarchy that moved only according to his decisions. If there was one facility, it was an audience room.

    "Dammit, when can I get out of here?" A man pushed at the shoulders of two knights, moving with a deep anger and nervousness.

    As soon as the man returned to Belfort, he had asked for an audience with the emperor and entered the imperial palace before there was a reply. Usually, this wasn't possible, but the man's identity made it possible.

    He was Fermut el Andras, the heir to the throne. There were no knights in the imperial palace who could block the crown prince.

    'Kuk, come on. If I don't hurry, my body won't last...'

    It was seemingly fine, but the insides of Fermut's body had started to collapse. The injuries, that Fermut had received from Orta, had been recovered with the regenerative powers of the magic sword, but his aura lost hadn't returned.

    His strength that had been able to bend an iron rod had been reduced to less than half, while his right leg staggered because his legs weren't balanced. Fermut's heart had been destroyed and his aura eaten by the magic sword, so now Fermut wasn't even a sword master.

    However, he still had a string of hope. It was because he believed that his father, who was the emperor of Andras and had been an almighty being since Fermut's childhood, could heal this wound.

    Finally, Fermut's steps reached the audience room.

    "Your Majesty!" Fermut called out. He didn't center the room carelessly. Rather, he raised his voice and cried out longingly, "The 3rd Sword, Prince Fermut is here! Please excuse me!"

    Then a sonorous voice was heard from the other side of the door as the emperor of Andras replied, "You can come in."

    The green-tinged Fermut hurriedly opened the door. In his experience, his father, Emperor Kether, wouldn't meet anyone if he wasn't willing to talk. So, Fermut absolutely couldn't miss this opportunity.

    As the two luxurious doors opened, the throne which was made of dozens of broken swords came into view. According to the records, the throne had been made by collecting the swords of the past Seven Swords who died.

    'Someday, I will sit in that great position...!' Fermut couldn't abandon his ambitions despite his ragged body.

    He bowed to the old man sitting on the throne. This was Andras' sun, Emperor Kether.

    "―You are a disgrace, my son." Kether's voice was heavy on Fermut's shoulders and chilled his heart.

    Kether had white hair, white eyebrows, and a white beard. It was an appearance appropriate for his age. He had a solid build that was greater than that of a young person, and the tendons of his hands stood out clearly as he grasped the throne. Perhaps the strong grip of the hand would crush it.

    "You said with your own mouth that you would win. Now, you are begging me for mercy after losing? This isn't like you."

    "I don't dare make excuses, Father." Fermut kneeled down in a rare polite manner, giving up his high self-esteem. "Just one more chance! This time I will be more vigilant and crush the army of that cowardly Meltor!"

    "Hrmm... I don't know about the words of a loser."

    "Father! Please! Father, if you want to be in charge, then I will unconditionally obey you! No, if Father takes up the baton, this war will be easy to win!"

    The winner would take it all. Eating the weak was the life of the Andras Empire.

    Fermut might be a prince, but he couldn't be freed from this food chain. Fermut held the position of the next emperor, and he had reached this position by killing all his other brothers and sisters.

    This person who had aggressively gobbled up the weak... He wanted another chance? It was a laughable story.

    "...You are really stupid, my son."

    Then what type of person was Kether, the emperor of Andras?

    "But I forgive you. You are my child and Andras' third sword. I gave you that sword in order to protect your life from the pit of death."

    "O-Ohhh...! T-That means!"

    "Your life is Andras' and mine."

    Fermut felt a familiar and fierce joy at the words. Fermut's life had been declared as the emperor's possession, so no one other than him could kill Fermut. It was the same for that damn Witch of Heat and Sage of Water. From now on, Fermut's era was coming. Even the emperor of the iron throne had affection for his flesh and blood.

    "Then I will take it directly with this hand."

    "...Huh?"

    What did that mean?

    Puk. A coin-sized hole was drilled in Fermut.

    "K-Kuaaah....kuheook..." Fermut screamed as something entered his body, draining it.

    To be precise, he tried to scream.

    The moment that Kether's finger penetrated Fermut's brow, Fermut's flesh was no longer his. The connection between the body and the soul was cut off, and the feeling of the soul being pulled into the abyss was horrifying.

    'T-This monster... is he, really, my father?' Fermut questioned as he reached the final threshold of life.

    Jjikeok.

    Kether looked down at his dead son with a dull facial expression. It was the nasty death of the 3rd Sword.

    Fermut had completed his duties, but now he was useless.

    The emperor muttered, "It hasn't even been 1,000 years since I started ruling Andras and the balance is already collapsing. The mortals, who are useless except for causing chaos, are bothering me again... Do I have to move directly with this incomplete body...?"

    He had empty eyes that watched the people and a voice that casually discussed a time period of 1,000 years. Kether thought about it before deciding. He couldn't leave this situation alone. It was a matter where he needed to move personally. "It can't be helped."

    He commanded Crowd, who had appeared in the audience room, "Gather all of the Seven Swords. I will make this war simpler."

    "Are you going to end the empire?"

    "I don't know. I haven't thought about it yet."

    The two people talked about absurd things without changing their expressions.

    "Don't waste effort on needless work, Crowd. Remember that you might be a little exceptional, but you are still part of me. You will have to join them someday."

    "Of course, I always keep that in mind."

    "You are really good at speaking. Well, okay. Go now. I must end this tirelessly repeating war game."

    The emperor, whose empire was in a desperate situation, called this war a game. Nevertheless, the 1st Sword didn't contradict his words. It wasn't because he didn't have the authority but because he knew it was correct.

    The moment Kether moved, this war would soon end. It would end in a way that nobody expected or wished for.

    "War is just the struggle of insects."

    He would finish it in one go.

    *     *     *

    After the battle on Nagma River, the dispersed Meltor troops gathered in one spot to reorganize.

    It was necessary to observe how Andras reacted to the great damage, and a new face joined. It was Blue Tower Master Blundell, who had come to fill the vacancy that Veronica left after leaving Karul Plains.

    "Hahaha! I am glad to see your happy face!" Blundell laughed, causing his swollen muscles to swell. His staff was no different than usual. There was no tension as the leaders laughed.

    "I would like to raise a glass in celebration, but I have to put off this joy until after our victory. How long have I been waiting in the capital? I am so happy to be able to fight with you, despite it being late!"

    "Yes, we think so too. Blue Tower Master."

    Benedict coughed a few times before asking, "The war is going well, but what about the situation back in the kingdom?"

    "It isn't bad! The economy has shrunk a little bit due to the war, but it is still good. The situation with the supply unit is good, so we can sustain it for half a year without difficulty."

    "Hoh, it is good news."

    The soldiers were risking their lives fighting on the front lines, but the support people in the rear also shared their pain. Food was shipped at a cheap price to the front, while merchants placed the supplies before their own interests. It wasn't uncommon for them to go bankrupt from the burden.

    However, Meltor's national power endured that burden. The patriotism, accumulated finances, and sympathetic elements allowed them to do it. They couldn't help feeling proud as citizens of this kingdom.

    "Okay, now it is my turn," Blundell said, his grinning expression becoming serious. He asked, "How is the current situation? I heard there was a big win at Nagma River, but nothing since. Don't tell me that nothing happened..."

    "That's right," the masked Orta immediately replied to Blundell. "Since that day, the enemy troops haven't moved. There have been no movements, apart from a defensive formation. Therefore, we were worried about how we should respond."

    "Huh? They really aren't moving? Those warmongers?" Blundell had a lot of experience, but even he shook his head as he looked at the models on the map.

    Meltor might have the upper hand, but this advantage wasn't absolute.

    Andras still had more troops than Meltor, as well as a lot of hidden strengths. There was no reason for them to act passively.

    "What are their intentions?"

    Orta shrugged in response. "I'm not sure. I can't get a sense of their actions. The secret agents I sent didn't get any results, and I am reluctant to poke at the gaps."

    "Don't tell me... Perhaps they are planning a truce?"

    "Perhaps. For the first time, Meltor is dominating in the war. We absolutely can't step back, and they know that."

    There was a moment of silence in the control center. They were each having their own thoughts and guesses about what Andras' actions meant. Then a messenger ran into the barrack, which had a heavy atmosphere.

    "C-Commander!" The messenger's fear-filled pale face made Benedict realize that what the messenger brought wasn't good news. "A small unit is making its way past the western border! Four magic soldier units and 26 war mages tried to delay them, but they are all dead or in a serious condition!"

    "What, the defense line?"

    "It was broken in an instant! The speed is insanely fast!"

    The shock spread to all the leaders, including Blundell and Benedict.

    The soldiers at the defense line of the border were elites, yet the soldiers at the defense line were broken in an instant? Moreover, it had been done by a small number of elites with overwhelming force.

    Benedict somewhat recovered his composure and asked, "The power of the enemy? Surely you know that?"

    "T-That..."

    "What is it?!" In the end, Benedict lost his patience.

    The messenger hiccuped before opening his mouth, "A-According to the report, it is the 1st, 2nd, and 5th swords..."

    "What?"

    "Is that true?"

    "A-And one more thing."

    Apart from three of the Seven Swords crossing the border, there was more to report? The eyes of the leaders glared at the innocent messenger. If they hadn't controlled their magic power, the innocent messenger might've had a heart attack.

    However, he spoke despite the pressure, "I'm not sure, but... one of the surviving war mages said he saw it."

    Before they could ask, the messenger continued, "He said the emperor's flag was among the Andras unit that crossed the border...!"

    The flag that expressed the emperor himself was a symbol that could only be seen in Andras. If they really were carrying that flag, it meant that three of the Seven Swords and the emperor had crossed the border personally.

    'This is crazy!'

    It was a surprise raid that would never happen again in the future.

    "What did these bastards eat?" Blundell's murmur resonated through the barracks, seeming to represent everyone's feelings.
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