Chapter 0173 Conference
Red Post, a city on the eastern border of the Kingdom of Knightley.
Previously, Ryo stayed at Red Post on his way to the Inbury Duchy as Gecko’s escort.
And there, he helped remove the tattoo on the chest of the former assassin Sharfi.
Although they were at Red Post, the expeditionary force including Ryo had to remain outside the city.
Because the city was filled with refugees from the Inbury Duchy.
Initially, there were many refugees outside the city too, but most of them continued fleeing deeper to other cities inside the Kingdom.
“The refugee problem is complicated …”
Ryo muttered softly while watching such a scene.
What came to his mind were the refugees he saw in videos when he was on Earth, the host country dealing with the issue, and the conflict with citizens in the host country.
Helping just because ‘they are pitiable so let’s help them’ was not enough to solve the refugee problem.
Ryo shook his head slightly and then walked toward a big tree he had his eyes on.
However, there was already someone there.
“A B-rank Swordsman adventurer reading a book of unknown origin with a scowl on his face …”
“Hey, I can hear you.”
Abel said to Ryo, looking up from his book.
“What are you doing in a place like this?”
“I believe I was reading a book until I was disturbed by some Water-Attribute Magician.”
“Abel still has a long way to go if you succumbed to that degree of disturbance.”
“Yeah, I understand that you’re telling me something extremely unreasonable …”
Ryo shook his head and spread his hands in an air that said ‘sheesh’.
On the other hand, Abel argued with him while frowning.
Ryo’s work was already complete.
That was because the food they brought from the City of Rune using Ryo’s wagons were already gone.
The food that Ryo transported came from the City of Rune but it was treated as rations for the entire southern forces.
In that vein, food was also brought in from various regions such as the north, east, west, and center where the Royal Capital was located.
Among them, the food from the south was the first to run out because Hugh took the initiative in offering their food.
That was so that the food would be consumed as soon as possible and allow Ryo to dispel his wagons.
He tried to avoid it from being noticed, but … well, it was already too late.
“Even so, how long will the conference last …”
“No idea. Up until last week, we were talking about how to break through the border, but now we can’t decide whether to break through the border.”
The agenda changed because news of the fall of the Capital City of Aberdeen was received.
Of course, since they had not seen the situation in Aberdeen, there were opinions that the report of the fall of the Capital City was misinformation, disseminated to delay the expeditionary force.
It seemed that discussions were divided into three factions: ‘Still break through the border’, ‘Nonintervention’, and ‘On the fence’.
Ryo, of course, but even Abel had not approached the central tent where discussions were taking place these days.
Guildmasters from each of the participating cities were gathered inside, and Hugh McGrath attended the conference to represent the City of Rune.
“Why is the discussion dragging on?”
“Oh … probably because the chain of command hasn’t been decided. The commander hasn’t been decided either.”
Abel replied when Ryo asked.
Then, he started to explain about the adventurer’s guild from each city.
“The adventurer’s guild of each city has a ‘ranking’. Although it is not documented outright, the first rank belongs to the Royal Capital headquarters. However, this issue stems from the Royal Capital headquarters sending a vice guildmaster.”
“Oh …. If the guildmaster of the Royal Capital headquarters had come, that person would have taken command as the leader.”
Ryo could somewhat imagine it.
“That’s right. So, ranked below the Royal Capital headquarters are the four largest cities in the north, south, east and west, and the largest frontier city Rune.”
“Oh! The Adventurer’s Guild in the City of Rune has a high rating!”
Ryo was somehow happy.
Happy that the organization he belonged to was highly evaluated.
Most people are like that.
“Well, that’s because Rune’s guild has accumulated that much achievement. Unlike the guilds in each largest city, the frontier location meant that Rune’s guild runs by a merit system.”
Abel proclaimed proudly for some reason.
He may have been proud that his 『Crimson Sword』 was also included in the accumulated achievements.
“Each of the largest cities in each region sent their guildmasters.”
“I recall Landenvia is the guildmaster for Acre, the largest city in the southern region. I met him once when I was in Kyradea’s Adventurer’s Guild.”
Ryo remembered Landenvia, who he saw leading adventurers from Acre as they joined the expeditionary force along the way.
The man described by Goro, the Kona Village Magistrate, as ‘the conscience of Kyradea’.
He was promoted from vice guildmaster of Kyradea to guildmaster of Acre.
“Oh, Landenvia is excellent. But the other guildmasters from the north, east, and west joined too so that’s why they are all equal …”
“If we don’t elect a commander soon…”
Ryo sighed softly.
Yes, the conference continued, but there was no progress.
Conferences usually don’t see much progress.
“Guildmasters from each region, from Rune, and the vicemaster of the Royal Capital are of the same rank, but … it appears that the east and the Royal Capital favor attacking, the north and west favor withdrawing.”
“Two to two. Eh? What about the south?”
“The south, or rather Hugh and Landenvia, are neutral.”
Abel replied with a frown.
“Hugh seemed to have close ties with the Inbury Duchy so it’s a little surprising. I thought he would want to attack everything.”
“I’m not deciding for just myself.”
Hugh McGrath’s voice suddenly appeared from behind Ryo.
Usually, the person spoken to that way would be surprised, but Ryo, as well as Abel, were not surprised at all because they sensed that Hugh was approaching.
“Hey, you guys … at least act a little surprised.”
Hugh felt depressed for some reason.
“The lives of 300 adventurers are at stake. Moreover, all of them are our elite, C-rank or higher … losing them would affect the survival of the Kingdom.”
There are many forests and mountains in the Kingdom.
And on 『Phi』, forests and mountains do not belong to humans … they belong to monsters.
Adventurers subdue monsters that come out of such forests and mountains or enter those places to thin the number of monsters, which is said to prevent the outbreak of monsters.
If the elite adventurers disappeared, the cities may be overrun by the monsters that overflow from forests and mountains.
In fact, three hundred years ago, a country was destroyed after many of its cities were overrun in that manner.
“I can’t decide based on my feelings. Moreover, the Union’s general is Lord Aubrey. He’s not an ordinary opponent.”
“Does Hugh know Lord Aubrey?”
Ryo asked Hugh.
“Oh. We fought a few times during the last Great War.”
Then, after looking a little farther and remembering something in the past, Hugh continued his words.
“You are both ridiculous Swordsman and Magician, but Lord Aubrey is also a monster. His skill with the sword is quite good, but more importantly, he is a genius of war. He became the leader of the Union but, unexpectedly, he chose to appear on the battlefield … maybe it would be better to not fight and withdraw.
Both Abel and Ryo felt the conflict in Hugh.
That might be the reason why his stance was ‘neutral’.
The situation changed three days later.
A carriage arrived at the Red Post Expeditionary Forces garrison.
On the door was a coat of arms where a sword and a staff intersected against the background of a shield. It was the coat of arms of the Kingdom’s Adventurer’s Guild.
The man who came out was a Magician in his mid-fifties.
With a height of 180 cm and a large staff that exceeded that, he glared at the area with a sharp gaze.
After surveying the surroundings, he entered the central tent.
When the man entered, the first person to notice, shout, and jump up was Josiah Onsager, vice guildmaster of the Royal Capital Headquarters.
Arriving by carriage was Finley Forsyth, the guildmaster of the Kingdom Headquarters Adventurer’s Guild.
The guildmaster at the headquarters was customarily called the grandmaster.
As Finley entered the tent, all the guildmasters stood up and greeted him.
After he sat in the highest seat where the vicemaster of the Royal Capital Headquarters was sitting until moments ago, the other guildmasters returned to their seats.
“Gr-Grandmaster, that …”
A lightly raise right hand silenced Josiah, the vicemaster of the Royal Capital Headquarters.
And then, he uttered words seriously.
“Gentlemen, there is an order from the Kingdom Government. Cross the river and free the Duchy.”
After he ended, there was a moment of silence.
Before many cries echoed in the tent and broke the silence.
The guildmasters from the center and east of the Royal Capital were cheering while the guildmasters from the west and north had bitter expressions.
The south guildmasters, centered around Hugh and Landenvia, remained seated silently.
“Your Excellency, report from the western border of the Duchy. Today at 6 am, a group suspected to be Kingdom adventurers broke through the border. Our garrison abandoned the border bridge and withdrew to the western border town of Rednal. They are strengthening the defenses in the city.”
Lord Aubrey tilted his head slightly to Lamber’s report before speaking.
“Finally … I thought they would decide a little quicker, but it took an unexpected amount of time.”
Lord Aubrey drank his tea.
“According to the report from our spy, the other day, a carriage with the guild emblem arrived from the Royal Capital, and then a strong attack was decided.”
“Who arrived? Probably Grandmaster Finley Forsyth.”
The corners of his mouth raised and he laughed.
“Well, Lamber, what should our army do now?”
Lord Aubrey put forth a test.
“Let me see. To wait-and-see.”
“Although the artificial golems are our trump card, apart from the first machines, it will take some time to bring them to the front line. Also, we have not yet identified the city where the Duke of Inbury is hiding, but the Kingdom’s adventurers will receive information from the Duke’s side, which means that if we look at the movements of the Kingdom adventurers, we will see the city where the Duke is. We can watch attentively as they gather and choose to annihilate them at our discretion.”
Lamber confidently said.
However, Lord Aubrey had a disapproving look.
“O-oh? Did I make a mistake?”
“Half correct. We don’t have to wait for them to gather. We can attack just before or just after they gather while they are still confused. Or we can guess where the Duke of Inbury is through the direction the adventurers’ travel. Well, I have a clue where the Duke of Inbury is.”
“Is that so!?”
As expected, Lamber was surprised by Lord Aubrey’s words.
There shouldn’t have been any reports of the Duke of Inbury and his army from anywhere.
“The southern city Fion. But it’s just a prediction. I sent spies to verify but they have not reported back yet.”
Lord Aubrey finished his remaining tea.
Fion, a city in the southern part of the Inbury Duchy.
Fion, under the direct control of the Duke, had a magistrate office, and Loris Baggio, the Duke of Inbury, was at the Fion magistrate office.
Currently, almost all of the remaining troops of the Inbury Duchy that could be mobilized were gathered in the City of Fion.
It was one of the plans from the beginning was to make the City of Fion the base for their counteroffensive, but it was a counteroffensive planned for after exhausting the invading Union forces through the scorched earth tactic.
However, the Duchy’s army was in a difficult situation now that the capital fell much earlier than planned, almost the entire northern part of the Duchy was under the control of the Union, and attacks on their supply lines were repeatedly unsuccessful.
Despite the scorched earth tactic, the enemy Union forces were not exhausted at all.
The Union forces, which controlled the northern part of the Duchy and the area around the capital, had stopped their advance.
The advance stopped and they were fully establishing their supply lines up until the capital.
After the fall of the Duchy capital, Loris and other leaders of the Duchy thought that the Union would move to control various locations but were faced with an unexpected move.
They captured the Duchy capital in a lightning-fast assault but didn’t advance further after that … it didn’t make any sense.
“Why aren’t they moving!?”
Loris Baggio, the Duke of Inbury, squeeze those words out as he stared at the map of the entire Duchy spread out on his desk in the meeting room of the Magistrate’s office.
“There is nothing to be gained by taking their time during the invasion of an enemy country.”
Loris’ words were justified.
That was because as time progresses, the local lords and people from all over the country would usually protest and start rebelling.
There was no reason why Lord Aubrey, a person called the 『Great General』, would not comprehend that.
That was why they couldn’t tell why he stopped and it felt ominous.
Of course, no one present could answer Loris’s questions.
Nobody spoke for seconds.
The first person to speak was Salieri, the Information Bureau Secretary.
“Lord Aubrey may be thinking of consolidating his rule over the land in the north until the Duchy capital by colonizing with his citizens.”
Loris and everyone else present were stunned.
They had evacuated as many of the citizens as possible due to the scorched earth tactic.
In particular, the cities and villages from the north to the Duchy capital, which were the primary routes for the Union forces to advance.
Many of the buildings were set on fire and their wells were destroyed.
They had to be thorough to prevent them from being used by the Union Forces … so in front of the weeping villagers … the soldiers also wept as they destroyed the infrastructure.
Therefore, that vast land became vacant.
Settling immigrants from the Union there …. was possible.
It was unthinkable that he would be satisfied with just taking control of the northern region and the Duchy capital but it seemed quite possible that he wished to secure his footing first.
“Salieri … has there been any evidence or information that appeared suggesting that?”
The magnitude of impact that information brought caused Loris to frown but he asked for confirmation.
“Immigration has not been confirmed. However, the construction of the road from the northern border with the Union to the Duchy capital is on an unthinkable scale. We have confirmed that laying work is being carried out for a nearly straight road 30 meters in width. There would not be a need to construct such a road for military use.”
A road with a width of 30 meters was quite wide.
On modern Earth, it would be a road with four lanes on each side … in other words, it was wider than eight lanes. Like a certain oil field kingdom.
Again, silence covered the conference room.
The next break in silence wasn’t because someone spoke.
It was due to a delivered report.
Salieri, who was given the report, read it and immediately passed it to Loris.
Loris read the report twice and nodded twice before speaking.
“Listen. About 300 elite adventurers from the Kingdom are marching to break through the border and join us. The commander is Grandmaster Finley Forsythe and the army has the hero of the Great war, Master McGrath!”
The report had a huge impact on the people in the conference room.
After a moment of blank faces.
The cheers of the conference attendees reached the heavens.
That was expected since that was the first piece of good news that finally came to them after struggling for so long.
In particular, the name Master McGrath was on many people’s lips.
Master McGrath was a foreigner, but in a sense, he was a symbol of independence for the Duchy.
Therefore, his popularity in the Duchy was enormous, and some people even claimed that if he came, there would be no doubt about victory.
It was also reported that the expeditionary forces of the Kingdom had already been contacted by the intelligence personnel and were being led to the City of Fion.
As soon as they arrived, the counterattack would begin.
Loris, the Duke of Inbury, had already made up his mind.
He understood that this could be their final battle.
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