~ 110: Looming threat ahead (Part 3) ~
[Julius Gaharian's point of view]
Several days after my brother made a mockery of himself by wrongfully accusing a traveler of stealing his slaves, I received a letter from the capital. It was a Call to Arms notification, but while this in itself wasn't something to be worried about, the details about it sent chills down my spine.
The letter let me know that the Emperor was gathering his armies in order to subjugate a Dungeon Lord and his party of Supremes. This in itself was news that could frighten anyone, but they also had the names of these potential targets.
“Illsyore Deus, Nanya Deus, Tamara Deus, Shanteya Deus, Ayuseya Deus, Zoreya Alttoros, and Savannah Azura. The first is presumed to be the name of the Dungeon Lord and the others are his wives... Different species... Zoreya Alttoros is a confirmed Apostle of Melkuth, and Savannah Azura is the former Supreme who worked for the Emperor and is to be considered a Kill-On-Sight target.” I mumbled as I read the letter again.
Feeling weakness in my knees, I took a seat on my chair and looked out the window of my study.
Brother was thinking of conning this group of people? I'm glad I decided to stop him myself. If I didn't... then maybe there wouldn't be a Polis left to send troops to this Call to Arms. Even so... I thought and then looked back at the opened letter on top of my desk “Can the combined force of Paramanium defeat them?” I said.
[First Prince's point of view]
This happened on the very day my father, the Emperor of Paramanium Empire sent out a Call to Arms to mobilize our army and march to intercept Illsyore Deus.
As I was sitting in my study room reading through several reports, I felt a presence near me and placed the papers on my desk.
“Report.” I ordered.
“Illsyore Deus is... dangerous.” said one of the men I had sent as scouts.
Him and his friends weren't part of the military, they were of a different profession, Assassins of the Phantom Rage guild to be more exact. I had hired them as scouts because their skills was unmatched, and because the pay was appropriate, they didn't mind either.
What could I say? I didn't mind using such people to do my dirty work. As the First Prince and future Emperor, it was in my duty and right to use any available resource I held in my possession in order to reach my goal. This was something I learned as a child from Savannah Azura when she became my teacher. Back then, I saw her as the most beautiful woman in the country, and maybe that was why my father decided she was too dangerous for me.
For everything she did for this Empire, he disgraced her and sold her off into slavery... But I had planned to buy her through the help of a good friend of mine: General Augustus Zeviore. Unfortunately, he told me that he failed to acquire her as the price reached some rather ridiculous values. It was more than what we could afford, but at the very least Duke Harbrind Vanova didn't get his slimy hands on her. That man didn't had the best intentions for her, but if I had won her, I would have used all of my resources to heal her. Even so, between sending General Zeviore in secret at that private auction and acquiring the money needed to purchase her, my moves were rather limited. If I transferred too many coins, I could have been caught. If father found out I purchased Savannah, he would have ordered her death. This way, at least I knew she didn't end up in that Duke's hands.
Yet, I had to scold General Zeveiore for forgetting to write down the name of her purchaser. What a terrible blunder he could have made, but well... age spared no one, and he was getting quite old.
“How dangerous?” I asked the man hidden in the shadows of my room.
“So far, we have confirmed that his group is filled with individuals who had reached Supreme status. We also managed to use a Dungeon Detection Stone on which the number 3348 was revealed. We presume that he may have some sort of ability to camouflage the true value of his Level.” he said.
“Hm... Do you really believe that?” I asked him.
“Yes. It's impossible for a Dungeon to reach such a level. Actually, I never heard of any Dungeon going past 1000.” he declared.
“Hm. I guess so... But just his party of Supremes can make him to be quite the threat if he were to bare his fangs against Paramanium.” I said and then thought Chances are my father and siblings already know this much, and maybe they even started to make a move behind my back. Should I consider this possibility as a chance to put myself closer to the crown? If they attack, should I join them? No... That would be the fool's mistake. If Savannah were here, she would have told me to wait for now and think of a political opening. This Illsyore could become a threat for Paramanium or an ally. I have to make him an ally if my father aims for an enemy.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Yes. Illsyore Deus' been moving around the Empire in that strange contraption of his, but we determined their destination. It's Port Rico. He himself mentioned this to the locals on numerous occasions and it didn't appear to be a lie. Rather, for him this is an insignificant piece of information.” he said.
“Interesting. So he's planning on heading towards Sorone next?” I asked.
“Yes, that's what we are assuming as well. But he's been buying a ridiculous amount of slaves on his way there.” he pointed out.
“Slaves? What for?” I asked.
“We don't know, but he isn't treating them badly, and he even freed one of them. I believe her name was Savannah Azura, the female human who worked here as a teacher here at the Palace.” he said.
When he mentioned her name, I froze.
Savannah was bought by... him? I thought and squeezed my hands into fists.
This... I didn't expect this.
True, I did hope that she would be safe and someone good would buy her, then maybe I could buy her from him, but... but this was outside my expectations.
“That woman, Savannah, is she still under the effect of the cursed tattoo?” I asked.
“No. When we saw her, she had no tattoo as far as the gaps in her clothes revealed, and she was happily teaching the slave children. Actually, this Illsyore fellow has a weird way of treating slaves, he doesn't see them as tools but as men and women with equal rights as him. He's a weird fellow that one.” said the scout.
“I understand... Then... he must have removed them... This changes matters...” I said.
“What do you want us to do now, boss?” he asked.
“Hm... For now, there's no need to continue with this mission. It's too dangerous. However, I want you to bring me any incriminating files from Duke Harbrind Vanova office.” I ordered.
“Yes, but incriminating about what?” he asked.
“Anything. Bring me anything you can find, but make sure to replace it with fakes.” I said.
“Understood. We'll take our leave now, your Highness.” he said and then I felt their presence vanishing from my room.
Letting out a sigh, I looked down at the stack of documents on my table and began to think of what all of this could imply towards the future. How exactly would all of this benefit me or trouble me?
A few hours latter, my little brother barged into my room without knocking and then declared with a smug look on his face “Brother! Father ordered a Call to Arms! Everyone is to send troops to capture the Dungeon Lord Illsyore and Kill Savannah Azura!”
“What?” I asked as if I didn't hear right.
So my father chose this path? How foolish. I thought.
“You know brother? If you beg on your knees, maybe I will ask father to spare that silly woman you had a crush on?” he showed me a mocking smile.
Raising an eyebrow, I looked at him for a moment and then closed my eyes.
He thinks I'm a fool, doesn't he? Well, this is good... With a big ego as his, then I know how to manipulate him. I thought and then let out a sigh and got up.
Opening my eyes, I looked at him and then told “I have no feelings for that woman you speak of, brother. However...” I looked away and faked a cough “My health is a bit on the bad side lately. I don't wish to join this battle, but when you return would you offer me the honor of listening to your tales of victory?” I asked and then looked back at him.
My brother was showing me a smile so big and wide it reached all the way to his ears. It was creepy, and no doubt he was thinking that he had somehow 'won' against me.
“Of course, brother! I will tell you of my heroic tales if you ask nicely! Hahaha!” he laughed with his hands on his hips.
“That's kind of you, little brother.” I smiled.
“Hmph! I'm in a good mood now! I'll see you after I return from this campaign! Make sure to prepare something nice for my victorious return!” he laughed as he left my room.
“Of course...” I said and as soon as he was gone, my smile vanished. “How foolish.” I said and let out a sigh.
Illsyore was surrounded by Supremes, including my teacher who was wonderful military strategist, but this last detail was unknown even to father. He would have needed to listen to her lessons in order to understand this.
With father moving so fast, then I had to act too while he was gone, but not against the Dungeon Lord who saved Savannah. No, I had to gain his trust not his anger.
No doubt this campaign will turn out to be a major failure. It's possible that more than half of our troops will be decimated by Illsyore. If it's a Call to Arms then there will be Supremes who will participate in this mission as well. Considering how many they are, I believe father will use at least half of them. The others, he doesn't trust them that much, but maybe I can do something to gain them on my side? Hm... I thought and then looked to my left at the books aligned on my library. “If I use my 'scouts' properly, I can gain some information those guys might want.”
The main reason why father didn't trust them that much was a political one. They didn't agree with several of his decrees and ended up losing something. Besides this one, father chose to protect several nobles who angered these Supremes or wronged them in one way or another. Because of this, they didn't mind acting as guards for the Empire in case of an invasion, but they wouldn't participate directly in a battle.
One of them, if I remember right, had his family's land confiscated by a corrupt noble while he was out exploring a dungeon. Because father protected that noble, he made it clear that he would defend the Empire, but he would not accept any missions from the Emperor until he dealt with that noble... If I can find enough dirt on that guy, or destroy him, then I can gain the Supreme on my side. I thought.
Taking an empty piece of paper, I began to write a couple of letters. I needed to know who angered who. Then I needed to find out a way to demolish the factions that upheld my father's authority within the Empire as well as those who helped my siblings from the shadows. I wanted to either get them on my side or drive them into a neutral state. There was still no certainty as to whether or not causing their houses to fall was a good thing for me or not. If I irked too many bee hives, I was bound to get stung at one point.
As for Savannah... my brother was right about her, I still loved her. Maybe it was the love of a foolish student towards his teacher, but so far, she was the only woman who made my heart skip a beat. If anything, I wanted to get on Illsyore's good side and doing so, maybe I could get another chance with her.
No, before I attempted something like that, I had to make sure my own faction was more powerful than father's or my brother's. If they suffered a terrible loss as a result of confronting the Dungeon Lord, then it was for the better. Then all I had to do was appease to him in some way or another. If I could get him on my side, then no one in the Paramanium Empire would be able to oppose me, and marrying Savannah won't be a dream anymore!
I will make this happen even if I have to order several assassinations through the Phantom Rage... I thought as I finished writing the first letter.
It was addressed to one of the Supremes who suffered at the hand of a corrupt noble.
[Phantom Rage assassin's point of view]
“Hey, did you send word to the boss about that el'doraw?” I asked as I looked out the window for any followers.
We were currently staying at one of Phantom Rage's hideouts in Aura, the Capital of Paramanium Empire.
“Yeah...” he nodded.
“Hmph. I never expected to find the traitor here. I thought she died like six years ago or something?” I asked him as I walked away from the window and sat down on the chair.
This guy was my partner, and he was currently fiddling with his notes. He was in charge of all the brainy thingies. I was more of the muscles of our two men team.
“Yeah, me too, but the boss said not to presume she was dead. Something about her not being an Emperor anymore.” he said.
“You got that right, she's a freakin' Supreme now! How did she get like that anyway? Is there a trick? Maybe she got that strong because she slept with the Dungeon? Hm? Are there any female Dungeons?” I wondered as I scratched my chin.
It was a valid question in my opinion.
“You don't have luck with the brothel whores let alone a Dungeon!” he scoffed.
“Shut it!” I glared at him and stabbed my dagger in the table.
“Anyway, I've sent the report to the boss about Shanteya Dowesyl. All that's left now is to wait for them to move. If they order us anything we'll do it, until then, let's look for dirt on this guy Duke Harbrind Vanova.” he said and pointed at the name on his notes.
“Shouldn't be too hard. The guy's like a sack of trash that was left to spoil for a full year. He smells so bad even the Merions won't get near him!” I laughed.
“Then it should be an easy job right?” he smirked.
“Yeah.” I nodded.
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