– The Western continent is in shock.
Crown prince Alberu Crossman was laughing from the other side of the video communication device. Cale looked at him from the military operations room as he leaned back against an empty couch.
The first battle had ended.
The Western continent heard some surprising news.
The Empire’s crushing defeat.
The Empire that was supposed to be overwhelmingly powerful crumbled before the Whipper Kingdom’s warriors.
– Rumors of Duke Huten’s capture as a prisoner of war are spreading rapidly across the Western continent.
“Aren’t you laughing a bit too much?”
Cale turned his head away from the lively Alberu, whose glibness seemed to have spread from his tongue to his entire face.
He could then see the Fire of Destruction that was still burning strong even after all of the other fires had been put out.
– Heeheehee, isn’t our fire beautiful?
‘Ah, this crazy bastard.’
Cale ignored the fiery thunderbolt’s voice. He then turned his head to see Alberu’s bright face once again.
– The Mogoru Empire contacted us.
That was expected.
– They asked if we provided the Whipper Kingdom with mages.
Alberu replied with a cheerful expression.
– I told them that I never did! Isn’t that the truth?
“That is true. Although you technically gave them a vacation.”
The black Dragon Raon shook his head after seeing Cale and Alberu’s expressions. Cale didn’t care about Raon’s reaction as he nonchalantly added on..
“The results of the Empire’s battle seem to be spreading a bit too quickly though. It’s strange.”
Alberu snorted and responded back after seeing that Cale’s gaze was calm contrary to his statement about things being strange.
– Yeah, I spread the news.
The news of the Empire’s defeat, and detailed information of it at that, were quickly passed on to the, ‘people,’ of the Western continent.
In other words, it was spreading to the general public and not to the leaders of each kingdom.
Less than half a day had passed since the end of the first battle, however, the defeat of the Empire was an interesting story in the capitals of each kingdom.
– Isn’t this how we get the Empire to become even more panicked?
“That’s quite superb your highness. You’re as quick as a swift flying squirrel.”
Alberu frowned as he couldn’t tell if Cale’s words were a compliment or banter. He spoke to the punk who shared a similar personality as his own with a sour expression.
– You say that now, but you’ll be going to the Empire in order to spread the news as well, aren’t you?
Alberu turned his gaze to the person behind Cale as he said that.
– Well, our Sword of the Empire seems to be quite shocked, so you probably have to take care of that first.
There was a man bound with all kinds of restraints and magic spells.
The man showed no strength in his eyes as if he had aged a few decades over the span of a few hours.
His cheeks were quivering in shock.
Duke Huten, the Sword of the Empire.
He dejectedly looked at the white-haired Cale and crown prince Alberu, who was displayed through the video communication device.
Choi Han, who had the dye magic removed by now, was standing behind him while keeping a close watch over him.
Duke Huten, who couldn’t utter a word because his mouth was gagged, nevertheless uttered a cry, or some sort of muffled groan-like sound.
‘The Roan Kingdom! You Roan Kingdom bastards were the masterminds all along! How dare you bastards try and usurp the Empire’s position!’
Unfortunately, none of his thoughts could be said out loud.
Duke Huten’s eyes became bloodshot from resentful shock.
However, that didn’t bother Cale. A good person might have a guilty conscience, but both of them were people in positions of power who had played a role in the lives of many during the battle.
Those who had blood on their hands were pretty much the same.
Cale rose from his chair and saw crown prince Alberu gently waving his hand at him as he straightened out his priest robe.
– Do a good job spreading the news in the Empire. Let the people know that the Empire suffered a crushing defeat so that they can grumble and complain to the Imperial Prince.
Duke Huten’s whole body trembled.
He couldn’t imagine anyone as evil as them.
Crown prince Alberu nonchalantly commented at that moment.
– That way we’ll be able to destroy the Alchemists’ Bell Tower, right?
Duke Huten’s body shook as if he had been struck by lightning. He could see that both Cale and Alberu were looking towards him.
The white-haired Cale’s voice was then heard.
“Don’t act so surprised. We know everything, Duke-nim.”
Cale pointed at his white hair and uttered a single phrase.
“The White Star.”
The look of resentment and anger in Duke Huten’s eyes changed.
He had a look of fear toward an unknown existence that could not be comprehended.
‘How much do they know?
No, what do they know?’
His mind drew a blank as he looked at Cale and Alberu.
However, there was no one to answer his question.
Alberu hung up after saying what he needed to say as usual while Cale prepared to leave as he gave Choi Han an order.
“Lock him up.”
Duke Huten stared at Cale as he was dragged down to the prison. The corners of Cale’s lips slowly went up into a smile that seemed to resemble the smile of a holy priest.
Cale arrived at the slums of the Mogoru Empire’s capital with that smile on his face.
The Mogoru Empire’s capital.
Jam, who had been walking over to open the vegetable store early in the morning, slowly stopped walking after hearing some voices.
“…The Empire’s army lost?”
“The Sword of the Empire was captured? He lost to that Toonka?”
Jam’s gaze turned toward the alley’s walls.
He could see some ripped papers as he heard some more whispers.
“I don’t know for sure either, but didn’t you see the notice that was plastered on the walls last night too? They said that the Empire had lost.”
“I didn’t see it because I wasn’t walking around last night. When I went to see it at dawn, the capital guards were ripping them all down.”
Last night. Each and every alley wall in the capital had a notice posted on it.
< The Mogoru Empire’s crushing defeat >
The contents were shocking. It didn’t help that the soldiers were hurriedly taking the notices down early in the morning and that the Imperial Palace did not have any official response toward it.
“…Were we really defeated?”
“I don’t know.”
“…Since when did our Mogoru Empire begin to only have events like this occur?”
The morning scenery that was supposed to be lively was rather dreary.
No, it was in a volatile state.
There had only been bad news ever since the terror attack on the Church of the Sun God. The people of the Empire were beginning to feel uneasy.
Perhaps it was a foreboding omen of ruin.
Was something big going to happen to the Empire?
“They say that the soldiers are looking for the people who posted those notices, right?”
“I heard that they were scouring the area while looking for them.”
Jam’s mouth shut tight after seeing the torn notices on the walls.
He quickly started to move.
There was a place Jam had to visit before opening the vegetable shop. He passed by the business district and headed for the slums while furtively scanned the surrounding area.
There were many people similar to him out and about.
They all looked ordinary, albeit dressed a bit shabbily, and seemed to be in a hurry as if they were all only briefly stopping by on their way to work.
In addition, they all had smiles on their faces.
A smile slowly formed on Jam’s face as well.
He slowly headed for the old but clean house near the entrance of the slums.
He opened the old wooden door.
“Hm? Mr. Jam! You’re here!”
A middle-aged woman with a warm expression happily clasped Jam’s hand. Jam greeted her gentler than ever.
“Priestess-nim, have you been well?”
The middle-aged woman in a white priestess robe handed over a small glass bottle with a smile. The smile on Jam’s lips was bright, but it quivered a bit at that moment.
“Thank you, priestess-nim. Thank you so much.”
Jam clutched the bottle containing the potion with a tearful expression. This would stop his daughter’s cough a little bit.
A rumor has been secretly circulating among the people of the slums and the slums itself for a while.
‘Healers who cure illnesses have appeared.’
No one knew when or where the rumor began.
However, this rumor was true.
Healers in white robes appeared and hid around the capital while handing out potions or providing free simple treatments that didn’t need healing abilities.
“That title is a bit burdensome, Mr. Jam.”
“Priestess, no, healer-nim, I understand.”
Although these healers wore priest robes, they refused to be called priests or priestesses. They also did not have a symbol inscripted on their robes to indicate which Church they followed.
Jam was grateful for these people. That was why there was only one thing that he could do…
The middle-aged woman requested a simple favor from Jam that could easily be done.
“Mr. Jam, if you meet anyone who is sick or encountering difficulties, please let them know of this place.”
How could there be such good people like this?
The healers always asked others to bring those that are sick to them.
“Just make sure it is done secretly. You understand, right? The Empire has been a bit noisy these days…and as you know, people like us are being heavily ostracized.”
“I know, I understand.”
“Yes, thank you, Mr. Jam.”
The middle-aged woman put on a bitter smile.
“Who will be able to treat the sick if we are chased out?”
Jam’s heart was full of admiration for the priestess’ dedication to the sick even as he prepared for another long and tiring day of work. He bowed to the benevolent priestess and headed out through the old door.
“Healer-nim, I’ll be careful and make sure that they don’t find out about this place.”
“Yes, thank you. Goodbye Mr. Jam.”
The old door closed.
There was no one else coming to find her.
“You’re pretty amazing, you know?”
The middle-aged woman turned her head toward the source of the voice. She could see a person coming down the stairs from the second floor of the old house.
“It’s nothing, young master-nim. I’m just proud to be doing such good work.”
He spoke bluntly to the woman with a benevolent smile, the assassin Freesia.
“I think that you are full of vitality after doing some stealthy tasks last night for the first time in a long while.”
“Hahahaha, surely not.”
Freesia dodged Cale’s gaze with a slightly awkward expression on her face.
The assassin who sculpted the rabbit that resembled a guard dog from hell, did an excellent job imitating a benevolent priestess.
“You did a pretty good job writing the notice as well.”
In addition, she did a good job carrying out her original duties.
The notices from last night were the works of Freesia and her subordinates.
‘The Imperial Prince is probably in a bit of a fix.’
Although the attention that the Empire’s defeat was getting from other countries was probably concerning to the Imperial Prince, it also probably wasn’t as concerning as the attention it was getting from within the Empire. That was probably why he tried to control the release of information about the war as much as possible.
However, his control was broken by Cale before he could even begin.
Fressia spoke with a refreshed tone as she knew this was the case as well.
“The Imperial Prince will have to do some damage control about this war soon.”
He obviously had to do that.
Wasn’t he the one who declared war?
Was that it?
There was also the correspondence that he had sent to the Whipper Kingdom. The moment the Whipper Kingdom makes that correspondence public throughout the Western continent, the Empire will become a laughing stock among the people.
“He only has two options. One is to give up the war and concentrate on stability within the Empire…”
Freesia shrugged her shoulders and continued to speak.
“…Or he and his army can utterly crush the Whipper Kingdom and display the Empire’s strength.”
“Of course, it’ll be the latter.”
“Right? Even if the Sword of the Empire has been broken, its pride still remains the same.”
If that was the case, how could the Empire crush the Whipper Kingdom?
How would they bring relief to the people of the Empire and steady their wavering hearts?
“It seems like the Imperial Prince will have to go on the battlefield himself.”
The Empire needed someone more impactful than Duke Huten.
Of course it had to be the Imperial Prince.
The assassin Freesia spoke as if she was enjoying herself.
“Then the Imperial Prince will—”
The door opened.
Freesia quickly stopped talking. However, she resumed speaking as soon as the door closed after seeing who it was that walked in through the door.
“…Then the Imperial Prince will soon be captured at Maple Castle, right?”
Cale looked over Freesia’s shoulder and gazed at the person standing in front of the closed door as he answered her question.
“Exactly. He’ll be like a rat trapped in a jar.”
And a cat will catch that rat.
Cale shifted his gaze towards the man standing behind Freesia with a concerned expression on his face.
“Did you have something to say to me?”
The Cat Knight Sir Rex had run straight here the moment he heard of Cale’s arrival. He responded to the white-haired Cale with urgency in his voice.
“Yes, there is something I must tell you.”
Cale headed toward the second floor, and Cale and Rex soon sat down on the couch facing each other.
Cale could see Rex’s tightly clenched fists. He looked quite tired and had dark circles under his eyes as if he had a big concern.
Sir Rex bit his lips at Cale’s gaze and then started to speak.
“Young master Cale-nim.”
Sir Rex remembered what Cale has previously said while pointing toward him.
‘Sir Rex is the man who will defeat the Emperor and the Imperial Prince and rise to the throne.’
Rex had been greatly shocked by that remark. At the same time, those words kept him unable to sleep at night. The contents of the books that Cale gave him filled his head.
Leadership, public administration, and Emperor studies.
The information that he had read after Cale told him to study were all getting jumbled up in his head.
The Empire seemed to be tilting away from its stable foundation due to large and small incidents. Rex had been noticing that change in atmosphere these days.
That was the reason that the things that he learned were dominating his mind more and more.
However, Cale, the person who could put the chaos in his mind to rest, was extremely busy so Rex could not see him until today.
He slowly began to speak.
“I don’t have what it takes to be a king.”
Cale gave a simple answer to the words he spoke with great difficulty.
“…And I am a commoner.”
Someone who was neither a member of the royal family nor a noble could not become the Emperor.
Cale answered nonchalantly as if he was questioning why Rex was asking something so obvious.
Rex suddenly became speechless. Why did Cale say those things to Rex if he knew?
“…Although I may look like a just person and seem a bit smart, I am timid and easily scared.”
Cale paused unnoticeably for a moment.
‘Oh, what is this?’
Cale looked at Rex with a peculiar expression and began to speak.
“Yeah, you seem that way to me too.”
Rex started to frown.
“Then why did you choose me-!”
Why did you choose me to become the Emperor?
Rex, who couldn’t even utter the word, ‘Emperor,’ easily, was staring fiercely at Cale.
He looked frightened. It wasn’t the look of someone who was unwilling, but rather the look of someone who was frightened at the weight of the title.
“Say it in reverse.”
Rex flinched at Cale’s words and asked again. Cale repeated what he had said.
“I said say it in reverse.”
“..Say what in reverse?”
“Say ‘Although I may look like a just person and seem a bit smart, I am timid and easily scared,’ but in reverse.”
Rex’s mouth closed.
Cale smiled at Rex’s reaction.
Rex was someone who unfairly judged himself.
Sir Rex slowly started to speak after seeing Cale’s relaxed gaze.
“Although I am easily scared and timid… I am a bit smart and-”
Although it was through the form of a Cat, Rex was someone who had escaped from the Alchemists’ Bell Tower without being caught. He even managed to become a knight through sheer tenacity even though he was from the slums.
In addition, he organized a group and aimed for the heart of the Empire without any hesitation.
Rex was able to finish his sentence after some time.
“…I am a just person.”
“That’s right. That’s you, Sir Rex.”
Rex’s expression turned odd. On the other hand, Cale felt strange about this unexpected situation.
How many people could call themselves smart and just?
‘What a funny guy.’
Cale sat up on the couch with an unexplainable expression on his face. Either way, he came to the Empire to say what he had to say.
Of course, the one he had come to talk to was Sir Rex.
“If you don’t want to become the Emperor, you can refuse.”
‘…It is ok to not become the Emperor?’
Cale continued to speak as Rex’s eyes opened wide.
“However, if the Alchemists’ Bell Tower is destroyed and the Imperial Prince falls…”
If what Sir Rex and his group desires is accomplished…
“…Then the Empire will fall no matter what. It will fall into ruin. It may even vanish completely.”
The Empire had many sins.
From the Caro Kingdom to the Jungle and even to the Whipper Kingdom. There were many who were out to get the Empire.
Although there was an alliance between the Roan Kingdom, the four kingdoms, and the one tribe, desire was still a scary thing.
Rex’s expression darkened. Even he thought that would be the worst result. However, Cale just said that it was possible.
It was at that moment.
Rex could see the document that Cale had placed on the table. Cale got down to business once Rex’s eyes were filled with confusion after seeing the title of the document.
“The Roan Kingdom is offering you a proposal.”
It was a proposal where the Roan Kingdom could expand its territory without going to war while giving the Empire time to stand back on its feet without being invaded by the other kingdoms.
The very front page of the document was a map.
Cale pointed to a spot on the map.
“The northwest part of the Empire and the southwest part of the Roan Kingdom.”
In other words, it was the border between the Empire and the Roan Kingdom.
Cale drew a circle there. Compared to the total size of the Empire, it was a very small circle.
“We create a free city in this spot.”
A free city.
A place like Leeb-An city that was on the Eastern continent.
“…A free city?”
Cale smiled and responded as Rex asked with a blank expression on his face at the unexpected development.
“Yes, a free city for magic and alchemy.”
Rex’s expression changed.
Roan Kingdom’s magic and the Empire’s alchemy. It was each country’s most famous strengths.
“The fallen Magic Tower and the Alchemists’ Bell Tower that will fall.”
Cale recalled his conversation with Rosalyn.
‘Young Master Cale, it would be great if land became available. It’s actually something I’ve needed.’
Cale thought about the new beginning after the destruction and collapse as he started to speak.
“Won’t they need a new land to live in?”