Chapter 3:

CHAPTER 2: THE HOLY COALITION

The Human Saint is Bored, so I was Summoned to Another World Vol. 5


January 6th, in the first year of the Saint.Bookmark here

The Holy Congress had been dragging once again, not because of its old format of bilateral talks between the rulers of Chersea; but the human monarchs were divided about what to do with the Empire’s blatant disregard for Maddie’s ultimatum.Bookmark here

That the Emperor should appear before her, as soon as possible, didn’t happen. I asked Lily about the travel time between north Chersea and the empire, just for reference. She told me it’d take about two ‘long sleeps’ for the Imperial ambassador, the Prince Vendette, to send Maddie’s demands, a ‘long sleep’ for the Emperor to act on it, should he plan to delay it a little, and a further two ‘long sleeps’ to appear at the Holy Palatial Gardens via the fastest transport available.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

However, it was the sixth ‘long sleep’, or ‘day’, since Maddie made her ultimatum, and there was no sign of the Emperor, nor an envoy from the Empire.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Naturally, Maddie and the other human kings were indignant.Bookmark here

“If that bastard wanted war, then he could’ve told us sooner!” it was King Rambo, “I’m itching for another round against that old geezer!”Bookmark here

“We can’t let this blatant disregard for Her Holiness’ demands!” another ruler, the Duke of Savoy, commented, “I say, we gather our armies and drive his legions back to the sea.”Bookmark here

The room erupted into cheers at the Duke’s suggestion. However, there were a few dissenting voices.Bookmark here

“Don’t be so quick to go to war, Your Majesties!” the King of Calabria sought to calm his peers, “It can be that the Emperor has a grave reason for not attending. We should smooth this out through talks!”Bookmark here

“Yes! It’s not your kingdoms that would be ruined should the trade between north Chersea and the Empire is cut-off!” another monarch—the King of Galad, took the stand of the King of Calabria, “As you know very well, my kingdom is an island, and with my population, there are only a few lands we can spare for food! Please reconsider!”Bookmark here

The floor soon devolved into another loud mob of royals trying to convince the others to either attack the legions stationed in Amaranth or exercise caution and prudence. Maddie was once again getting stressed-out by the exchange of arguments, and she sought to silence everyone.Bookmark here

Naturally, I and the other paladins intervened.Bookmark here

“Your Majesties!” Maddie spoke, “While there are merits in your suggestions—both for and against war, let me point out that we have given the Empire ample time to show their respect to this institution that we all agreed upon and tried to follow. However, as your saint, I wouldn’t allow anyone, slave, commoner nor even a royal, to trample our collective wishes and goals to have a peaceful and stable Chersea for humankind!”Bookmark here

“Yes! That’s my point as well, Your Holiness!” King Rambo shouted.Bookmark here

“Please keep silent, Your Majesty.” Lily drew near and admonished her friend.Bookmark here

Disregarding them, Maddie continued with her speech, “I implore you, wise rulers of men, to exercise wisdom in these trying times. My proposal is that we approach this problem in two ways: one is that we’re still open for communications, should the Emperor decide to avoid the course for war, and second, we should keep our vigilance and prepare for conflict, should it come to our borders!”Bookmark here

“Your Holiness!” it was the King of Calabria, “Does this mean, we’re avoiding war?”Bookmark here

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Maddie cleared it for him, “I do not wish for conflict to happen. However, I also advocate that we should prepare for war, should further violations be committed.”Bookmark here

“It is well understood, Your Holiness!” the King of Calabria bowed, “Thank you for imparting your wisdom.”Bookmark here

“Alright.” Maddie clapped, “For now, I’d like to adjourn the Congress a bit early, for I’d like to show the human kings the ‘hourglass’ my adviser, Sir Kuro, had invented. I’ll show you what its functions are”Bookmark here

At the mention of my name, I bowed before the kings, who took an eyeful of me. It’s awkward since Maddie insisted that I ‘invented’ the clock. However, though embarrassing, I’m quite proud that I was of help to her.Bookmark here

The moment Maddie stood was the cue for the human rulers to follow suit. As I was a Paladin guard, I immediately prepared to come after them. Who knows? Maddie might’ve wanted my explanation for introducing and using that device.Bookmark here

However, Lily stopped me.Bookmark here

“Kuro…”,Bookmark here

Hm? You need something from me, Lily?”Bookmark here

“Come with me.”Bookmark here

Eh? Is this something about Maddie?”Bookmark here

“If you’re referring to what happened to both of you six days ago, we’ll talk about that later. But now, Maddie had already created a diversion for us.”Bookmark here

“A diversion? What?”Bookmark here

“Just come.”Bookmark here

Though I felt uneasy about Lily’s request, I came with her anyway. Soon she led me to another room, quite far from the Congress venue.Bookmark here

“Sorry for calling you out suddenly,” she whispered.Bookmark here

“It’s alright. I’m just surprised by the sudden request, that’s all.”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s great!” Lily then unlocked the doors, “Please come in, to the War Room of the Holy Palatial Gardens…”Bookmark here

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The War Room of the Holy Palatial Gardens…Bookmark here

It was a big room, almost identical to the size of the place where the Congress was being held. There was a round table map in the middle, with a small recreation of Chersea’s geographical features. There was also a group of ornate chairs that circled around the table. Thick curtains covered the windows, which added to the mysterious atmosphere in the room. The only source of light was the little candelabras that were installed along the War Room’s pillars.Bookmark here

However, what further drew my attention was not those things. It was rather the figures that were hidden in the relative darkness of the place. Honestly, I felt like I was getting myself into a cult meeting of sorts; it’s freaky.Bookmark here

“Lily?” I hesitated and turned to her. One look at those people and I get the vibes that they were important characters.Bookmark here

But the head maid gestured I proceed into their circle. She then removed her maid headband before coming over to the table map. The figures stood up to pay their respects to her.Bookmark here

“Thank you for coming, Your Excellencies, Your Highnesses.” Lily greeted them, “May I present the captain of the Paladin Guard Corps, Sir Kuro…”Bookmark here

“Ah yes!” I heard a familiar voice from the crowd. Is that Sir Simon?Bookmark here

“So, you’re that commoner they call the ‘Fist of the North Lands?’” someone commented. And then murmurs floated around.Bookmark here

“I half-expected him to be…a bit heroic-looking?”Bookmark here

“So do I…”Bookmark here

Well, pardon your disappointments. Even though I’m the ‘Fist’, I’m just an ordinary guy from another world. Besides, what I did before to the Imperial prince was pretty common back in my world, especially when my friends were pretty drunk and could not even stand properly anymore.Bookmark here

Of course, socking the Imperial Prince’s face is extraordinary, but punching a face is what I‘m referring to…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Anyway, Lily then began introducing me to the people in the War Room.Bookmark here

“Sir Kuro, these people before you are the various ministers of the human rulers who are going to side with us if ever there’s a conflict.” she explained, “You know Prince Simon Hugh Reed of Nerfes; he’s the second Prince and the Minister of the Army to King James Walter Reed II.”Bookmark here

Sir Simon stepped forward to greet me with a handshake and a wink.Bookmark here

Well, I certainly expected he’s some bigshot. But I never knew that Sir Simon’s concerned with the fearsome army of Nerfes.Bookmark here

“This is Duchess Sylvia Henristone, a high official in the army of the King of Colveente, Baldwin V Hans Levine.”Bookmark here

The Duchess silently approached and did nothing but stare at me from the head down to the toe. Well, I guess they think their noble status gave them the license to disrespect others of lower standing. However, I don’t plan to fight these people in case I had to work with them, so I’ll just let it pass in the meantime.Bookmark here

“The Duchess had weak eyes.” Lily whispered, “But she doesn’t want to wear glasses.”Bookmark here

Oh…my bad.Bookmark here

“Count Robert Brooke, Minister of the Right to the King of Amarth, Sylvester Neuman.”Bookmark here

This noble had a sarcastic smirk on his face as he reached towards me for a handshake. And then, after that, he took out a bottle filled with some kind of liquid, and splashed some of it on his hands…all of that in my broad view.Bookmark here

Heh, typical nobility. So fucking entitled.Bookmark here

Oh? Did that offend you, Sir Kuro?” the Count of Brooke asked, “Don’t worry, it’s just that I’ve got allergies to everyone’s hands. And please don’t mind my face’s mischievous looks as well; I often get into fights because of how I look. My apologies for the misunderstanding.”Bookmark here

I stared at Lily, and she nodded.Bookmark here

Riiight. I guess I’m mistaken after all.Bookmark here

“Prince Giuseppe Uhrian of the city of Stadtsberg of the Alliance of the Valley Cities, councilor.” Lily then whispered, “He’s a half-dwarf, hence the beard and the height.”Bookmark here

“Hey! I heard that Your Highness!” the Prince of Stadtsberg complained.”Bookmark here

“Honestly, Your Highness the Prince, I think your beard is badass,” I admitted my thoughts to him.Bookmark here

“‘Badass’? What in the demon’s testicles is that?”Bookmark here

“It means ‘great’, Your Highness.” I explained, “I wonder if I can grow a beard like that.”Bookmark here

“Your Highness Princess Lilyhaven, I think I’ll like this boy!”Bookmark here

Ahem. Your Highness the Prince of Stadtsberg…” Lily replied in her prim and proper ‘maid’ character, “Sir Kuro is already engaged.”Bookmark here

“I don’t mean that, you fool! And I don’t swing that way!”Bookmark here

In contrast to the two other nobles, this old man gave an amicable impression. He carried a smoke-pipe with him, and he wore a red military uniform with a pair of golden epaulettes. His bearded face told me he was a veteran of several wars, which was further reinforced by the way he gripped my hand as if he’s expecting a lot from me.Bookmark here

What did Lily tell these people, anyway?Bookmark here

She continued introducing the rest of the nobility present in that room: three more people who had connections in their countries’ army.Bookmark here

If I remember correctly, their titles are the Count of Tillie, the Earl of Yaris, and the Duke of Greene.Bookmark here

Upon finishing with the others, Lily introduced herself, “I’m Princess Lilyhaven Tamriel of the Royal House of von Leese, also known as the Iron Princess and a former general to the army of Nerfes.”Bookmark here

Everyone then took their seats. The Prince of Stadtsberg was quick to comment, “I’m surprised that only a few of the kingdoms actually supported the cause of our beloved saint. Almost everyone was pretty vocal about going to war earlier, and then when it comes to the shove, we only have seven brave souls.”Bookmark here

“Well, you know how human politics work, Your Highness.” Lily answered him, “No matter how loud their voices are, most of those monarchs would only watch from afar, and side with the winning faction pretty late into the situation. Her Holiness expected little from them.”Bookmark here

“Too true, Princess, too true.” the old noble puffed his smoke-pipe.Bookmark here

“So, we’re all sure we’re going to war?” I heard the Count of Tillie asked.Bookmark here

“It’s not a question of ‘if’, Your Excellency.” Sir Simon told him, “It’s a question of ‘when’. That the Imperials landed five whole legions into another sovereign territory is a grave disrespect to the Saint’s Peace, and into the territorial integrity of Amaranth itself. If we don’t do something now, soon, we’ll deal with the Imperial legionnaires within our borders.”Bookmark here

“Besides…” Lily was quick to back him up, “The Imperial envoy was just delaying us; the Emperor didn’t plan to show himself, after all. However, that they sent the Prince of Vendette to negotiate is proof that the Imperials were bidding for their time, maybe to reinforce their armies in Amaranth, or set another invasion force somewhere here in north Chersea. So, what’s a good time to strike back but now?”Bookmark here

I agree with their explanation. If I was the enemy and I wanted to wage war, yet I’m still preparing my positions, I’d talk to my opponents for a while and prolong it so that my men could consolidate our defenses. Plus, only a fool would say that the Emperor would still be willing to negotiate; after all, he sent killers to assassinate Maddie.Bookmark here

Bah! These talks of when the war would begin is making me sleepy!” the Prince of Stadtsberg complained, “Let’s get ahead on how we should kick the Imperial arse.”Bookmark here

“Hold up, old man! Don’t rush us!” the Count of Brooke countered.Bookmark here

Laughing, Lily asked us, “Then, shall we proceed to our talk?”Bookmark here

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With everyone settled, Lily put forth the agenda of that meeting.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Honestly, sitting along with these VIPs made me feel awkward. I wanted to run out of that room as soon as possible. However, taking into consideration the recent turn of events, I guess I’m needed here.Bookmark here

After all, Lily wouldn’t drag me here if I’m unnecessary.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

And at least two more nobles believed in me, aside from the head maid.Bookmark here

The meeting was actually called forth by Lily, with Maddie’s blessing. However, they made sure that the monarchs were busy with something else before convening since Lily wanted to avoid arousing the suspicions of the pro-Empire kings.Bookmark here

The topic? It’s all about the arrangements for a military alliance to counter the Imperial threat in Amaranth.Bookmark here

“My kingdom could field an army of 8,000 footmen to form the coalition.” Sir Simon pledged, “We could muster it within three long sleeps.”Bookmark here

“Likewise, within three long sleeps, we’ll muster 4,000 footmen from our levies.” the Duchess Henristone said, “If I give the order, they could march immediately to Amaranth.Bookmark here

“From my kingdom, we have 5,000 men under Her Holiness’ command.” quipped the Count of Brooke.Bookmark here

“Hold on…” it was the Prince of Stadtsberg, “You children kept on pledging numbers, but do we even know how many legions we’re going to fight should the war break out?”Bookmark here

“Well, according to our spies in Amaranth…” Lily sifted through the papers that contained the reports, “We’re facing at least four to five legions, excluding the armies of the rebel Amaranthine nobles.”Bookmark here

“Goodness…so it’s around 20,000 to 25,000 well-trained legionnaires!” the Count of Brooke exclaimed, “And we don’t even know the numbers of the Amaranthine soldiers.”Bookmark here

“The Amaranthine faction amounts to around 15,000 additional footmen and cavalry,” Lily added.Bookmark here

“So…it’s around 40,000, or possibly more, eh?” the Prince of Stadtsberg commented, “I like the odds. My city could pledge around 600 footmen and 100 cavalries. I can’t speak for the entire alliance; our Stadtholder won’t take sides.”Bookmark here

“It’s all fine, old man.” Lily reassured him, “I’m sure if we gather enough victories, the support for our cause would grow.”Bookmark here

“And, tell us, Princess Lilyhaven…” it was the Duchess Henristone, “With such numbers working against us, how do you plan to do that?”Bookmark here

“Well…” Lily then turned to me, “That’s what Sir Kuro was here for.”Bookmark here

“So, the legendary ‘Fist of the North Lands’ comes in.” the Earl of Yaris excitedly said.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

The nobles’ attention fell on me. It sure was nerve-wracking; however, I don’t plan to embarrass Lily or Maddie here. If I plan to make my fiancé’s dream come true, then I should get the support of these people…Bookmark here

“Your Excellencies, and Highnesses, I don’t want to get your hopes up with unrealistic reassurances.” I began, “I’m just a human, just like you, though I came from a faraway country. So, I’m bound by human limits, as well…”Bookmark here

Oh great. Like we don’t know of that.” the Count of Brooke muttered, “Come on! Where’s the ‘Fist of the North Lands’ persona! I wanted action!”Bookmark here

I’m getting pissed. Dude, this isn’t an action movie. We had to plan our steps so we can ensure success…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

However, I chose to ignore it and continue with my words, “And so, listening to our numbers brought me to a conclusion on how to wage our battles.”Bookmark here

“So, what you got, hotshot?” the Duchess asked.Bookmark here

“Well, Your Excellency, even if we hear the rest of your pledges, I guess we’d still be outnumbered. However, the numbers are deceiving. There are a lot of other things to consider when fighting wars.”Bookmark here

“Ooh…” the Prince of Stadtsberg was getting impressed, which was what I planned.Bookmark here

“My plan is this. We’re going to do a ‘maskirovka’.Bookmark here

“Huh?” the nobles chorused.Bookmark here

Oh dear…here we go again.” Lily was amused.Bookmark here

“A ‘maskirovka’.” I reiterated, “First, we’re going to scatter rumors.”Bookmark here

“Rumors?” the Count of Brooke mocked, “You plan to fight this war with rumors? Tell me, how are we going to win with that?”Bookmark here

“My apologies, Your Excellency Count of Brooke, I believe I said it was the first step.”Bookmark here

“I heard him say that as well, Brooke. Don’t tell me your ears had gone deaf!” the Duchess snapped at him.Bookmark here

Embarrassed, the Count of Brooke fell silent. With the opportunity to explain given to me by the Duchess, I continued elaborating my plan.Bookmark here

“The rumors are designed to confuse our enemies where and when we’re going to attack, and also, overstretching their forces too thin in preparation for our main attack.” I showed it through a piece of cloth I got from Lily, “Based on the intelligence that Her Highness the Princess Lilyhaven had gathered, the royalist forces still loyal to the von Alberts have consolidated their forces in the west of Amaranth. While they held out there, we’re going to confuse the Imperials in what direction and when our attack would be.”Bookmark here

Ooh…I like this ‘maskirovka’ thing.” Sir Simon excitedly quipped.Bookmark here

“You said, confusing the Imperial of the direction of our attack. And where would that be?”Bookmark here

“In this direction.” I showed the south.Bookmark here

“The South?” the Duchess cried out, “Can’t you see that in that direction lay the sea? How do you expect us to attack from there? We’re going to swim? I don’t even have a swimsuit!”Bookmark here

Wait, that’s your problem?Bookmark here

“Duchess Henristone…” it was Sir Simon, “Please let Sir Kuro explain fully before you say something.”Bookmark here

Well, that put a stop to their questions for a while.Bookmark here

“Alright, continuing on. The second step is concurrent with the first step, Your Excellencies. Of course, since your kingdoms are far apart from each other, assembling our forces in one place would be hard to achieve without being detected by the enemy. In doing so, we could prematurely provoke them into taking the offensive, and with our limited numbers, they could just overwhelm us. For that, I propose we use disguises in transporting your armies.”Bookmark here

“Disguise, huh?” Lily asked, “Part of your ‘maskirovka’, again, Sir Kuro?”Bookmark here

I just nodded before explaining, “‘Maskirovka’ involves confusing the enemy about the numbers of our men, the place and time of the attack, and the quality of our soldiers. For the second part, since transporting large groups of men without being detected would be the problem, I suggest they shed off their equipment and wear disguises—merchants, travelers, migrants—whatever you think of. They can bring their weapons and armor underneath their carts, or treat it as merchandise. Also, travel in small groups, so that the Imperials are kept in the dark about our activities.”Bookmark here

“Sounds interesting lad!” the Prince of Stadtsberg chuckled, “I like this ‘maskirovka’ thing!”Bookmark here

‘Maskirovka’? Disguise?” the Count of Brooke once again roared his objection, “What about our honor? What about the glory?”Bookmark here

“You’re an idiot, Brooke!” the Prince of Stadtsberg countered him, “The commoner kid’s giving sound advice and you keep on babbling nonsense! If you have a better idea of keeping your men alive then better spit it out; if you don’t, then shut up!”Bookmark here

Lily and Sir Simon gave me an awkward stare, and we secretly laughed together.Bookmark here

“Go ahead, Sir Kuro.” the Duchess urged me, “Continue with your plan.”Bookmark here

“Once we assembled our forces, we go to the third step while continuing with the first step.” I drew a line on the table map, “We’ll execute a Schlieffen!”Bookmark here

“A what?” the entire room asked in bewilderment.Bookmark here

“Don’t you think Sir Kuro’s a bit of a weirdo spouting all of those strange words?” someone whispered, but I heard it anyway.Bookmark here

Oh…pardon me.” I cleared my throat to calm myself; I’m getting carried away again, “What I mean is we’re going to flank the Imperials to the south. Come to think of it, the southern direction would be the sea, and the Imperials would falsely place their security from the fact that it’s pretty hard to attack from this direction, as opposed to the land offensives coming from the north and east. Not only do we confuse them where we attack, but we also get to cut-off their line of supply and communication from the Empire, which was to the south of Amaranth.”Bookmark here

“So you mean, Sir Kuro, that this first step in your ‘maskirovka’ would involve scattering rumors we’re going to move from the north or east? Is that what you’re getting at?”Bookmark here

“Yes, Your Excellency!” Finally, the Duchess of Henristone understood, “We’re going to do this while we execute the second step and partly into the third. This is so that the Imperials would treat all these rumors as false, and let their guard down, in preparing for the main thrust of our offensive!”Bookmark here

“If that’s successful, Sir Kuro, then we could strike at the damned Imperials in one fell-sweep!” the Prince of Stadtsberg quipped.Bookmark here

“I had a better idea!” the Count of Brooke suddenly raised his hand, “What if, we do some actual, but irregular raids on the north and east borders of Amaranth, while doing this ‘maskirovka’ thing?”Bookmark here

“For the first time since we started this meeting, you finally said something sensical!” the Duchess of Henristone told him, “Yes, I like that idea. It would also add to the confusion of the Imperials should we decided to strike south.”Bookmark here

Hmm…what do you think, Sir Kuro?” Lily asked me.Bookmark here

“Yes, that could work.” I agreed, but added, “However, we need to conduct those raids later in the second phase and early unto the third phase. If we attack them too early, then the surprise element would be lost in our side; attack too late, and the enemy would have time to merge their forces to meet our main offensive.”Bookmark here

“Nice!” Sir Simon clapped, “We’re going to drive these Imperials back to where they came from!”Bookmark here

“Not so fast, though!” the Duke of Greene finally spoke, “I’ve been doing the calculations for the costs of this ‘maskirovka’, and I don’t think our finances would suffice. For one, the payment for the agents we’re going to use in spreading rumors would amount to 500 gold coins. Second, the disguises the soldiers would need could reach at the very least, 3,000 gold coins already. And that’s one army of 1,000 men, too! And third, if we add the cost of supplies and the ships, we’re going to hire for the flanking attack to the south, the price would be a staggering 50,000 gold coins!”Bookmark here

The others went pale upon hearing the figures brought about by the Duke of Greene. The almost-triumphant atmosphere in the War Room was dampened because our elaborate war plan would cost big.Bookmark here

Err…so how much gold could Nerfes contribute?” Lily asked Sir Simon.Bookmark here

“Well, His Majesty could commit 5,000 gold coins from the state treasury, plus 50 gold coins from his own pocket.”Bookmark here

Uhh…my king could give 1,000 gold coins for the cause.” the Count of Brooke added.Bookmark here

“The city-state of Stadtsberg allotted 600 gold coins for this!” the old Prince of Stadtsberg said.Bookmark here

“Colveente would add 1,500 gold.” the Duchess of Henristone told us.Bookmark here

“So, this would amount to…8,100 gold,” Lily confirmed. She then looked at the rest of the nobles.Bookmark here

“Our apologies, Your Highness!” the three aristocrats told her, “Our countries are so small, we could only contribute an accumulated amount of 500 gold coins.”Bookmark here

I could only listen to their conversations as they talked about the costs of the military operations against the Imperials in Amaranth. Well, of course, every endeavor would need money to make it happen, but I didn’t expect that Maddie’s supporters were actually ill-prepared to undertake army offensives against the Empire.Bookmark here

Of course, it’s natural that they’d offer only token support. They had their own countries to run and protect as well. Maddie’s vision of universal peace for Chersea comes as a secondary priority for these kings, if not a footnote in their budgets.Bookmark here

Isn’t my world pretty much the same as well? Countries would only move if their own interests would be affected. Otherwise, they’d let genocides happen for the devil to take care of.Bookmark here

“Alright. So, we’re in a budget deficit for this undertaking.” the Duke of Greene reiterated, “For this, I plan to talk to my sovereign about what arrangement we could provide to lower the costs.”Bookmark here

“Aren’t you an island kingdom, Brooke?” the old prince pointed out, “How about using your navy?”Bookmark here

“I’ll…see what I can do about it.” there was reluctance in the Count’s voice, “The kingdom of Amarth has a separate minister for the navy, and I doubt if we could keep this a secret should we ask for that loud-mouth’s cooperation.”Bookmark here

Oh…so it would be risky,” Lily interjected.Bookmark here

“I don’t want a country’s navy involved, neither.” I told them, “If ever the Imperials detected our movements, and they establish the link between our armies and even one of the supporting countries, we could provoke them into attacking prematurely and the whole plan is bust.”Bookmark here

“So we really have to use the merchant fleets, huh?” Sir Simon asked.Bookmark here

“Looks like we got no other choice then.” the Duchess pointed out, “However, what about if we try to give concessions to some of the merchant guilds who would cooperate with us?”Bookmark here

“That could work!” the Earl of Yaris agreed, “It’s also two-fold; not only they’d help us, but their presence in our respective countries could also boost the local economy.”Bookmark here

“But what about the number of ships?” the Duke of Greene raised another valid concern, “The merchant fleets couldn’t take all of our soldiers for a southern flanking maneuver.”Bookmark here

“You’re right, Your Excellency!” Lily affirmed his point, “For that, let’s divide our forces, combining with the Count of Brooke’s suggestion earlier. Since we’re going to do irregular raids on the northern and eastern borders, we would leave about a third of our army in those places, while the rest would come to the main offensive.”Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s it!” the Duke of Greene was quick to concur, “Now we only have to worry about our supplies.”Bookmark here

“For now, let’s take the costs of army maintenance for ourselves.” Lily told the War Room council, “I’ll see what Her Holiness, and I, can do to compensate you with your losses.”Bookmark here

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The meeting in the War Room took a bit longer even after we ironed out the details of how we’re going to wage the military campaign against the Imperials in Amaranth. The remaining talk was concerned about the leadership of what they called the ‘Holy Coalition’—basically, the kingdoms and other states that will support the Saint’s cause.Bookmark here

In the end, it was Lily who was selected to head the entire coalition. Because of his vast experience in leading footmen into battle, the half-dwarf Prince of Stadtsberg was given the leadership of the footmen, along with the Count of Tillie. The Count of Brooke, for his previous links with the cavalry, was assigned the cavalry wing. The Duke of Greene was in charge of the logistics and supply of our army, while the Earl of Yaris was given the ‘espionage’ department. He’s the one we’ll depend on for the ‘rumors’.Bookmark here

Finally, because Nerfes was the biggest contributor to our coalition, Sir Simon became our liaison to the other kingdoms, should they decide to join our fight.Bookmark here

“Okay, so Your Highness Princess Lilyhaven, it’s time for you to pick your second-in-command.”Bookmark here

“Well, Sir Kuro’s the only one who doesn’t have a responsibility yet.” Lily explained, “So, I’m picking him for the position.”Bookmark here

“That’s great! At least, the commoners would find a connection to support our cause through him!”Bookmark here

Of course. I should’ve seen this event. Putting a commoner in a place of command would surely make the other commoners realize this is their fight as well.Bookmark here

“Alright, I guess we should adjourn now, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies.” Lily told them, “Her Holiness must’ve been done with explaining how an ‘hourglass’ works.”Bookmark here

“Ooh!” the Duchess exclaimed, “I think I wanted to see for it myself!”Bookmark here

“By the way, it was Sir Kuro who suggested it to Her Holiness.”Bookmark here

Ooh! He’s really something, eh?Bookmark here

The nobles crowded around me. Now I knew what made them treat me like they did; Lily and Maddie must’ve been telling them tall tales about me.Bookmark here

“I’d like him to join my household if he wanted to.” the Duchess of Henristone said to Lily, “Is there any chance of that would happen?”Bookmark here

“My apologies, Your Excellency, but I guess Sir Kuro is already engaged.”Bookmark here

Uh…Your Highness, I don’t think I asked him to marry into my house. Besides, I still want to live my life as a single woman.”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

“Please be at ease, I only asked if Sir Kuro would like to become a knight under my service, nothing else.”Bookmark here

“Oh…”Bookmark here

Well, at least that put Lily at ease. I mean, come on. Not every lady out there would want to marry someone like me once I found a solution to the problem, or saved them from goblins or orcs, or any other villain.Bookmark here

That only works in your generic isekai power fantasy novels, after all…Bookmark here

“Your Highness Princess Lilyhaven, do you perhaps like Sir Ku—”Bookmark here

“Alright Your Excellencies, Your Highnesses,” Lily was panicking, “Thanks for your time, we’ll see each other soon!”Bookmark here

I guess that covered nothing at all. I mean, the Duchess was a lady, and no one could read another lady except for her own kind.Bookmark here

You’re terrible at hiding your secrets, Lily.Bookmark here

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Once the members of the Holy Coalition were gone, Lily and I went to Maddie’s room.Bookmark here

“How’s the meeting with the ministers, Lily?” the Saint greeted us upon entering her quarters.Bookmark here

“Well, we ironed out a lot of things to prepare for the upcoming conflict.” Lily replied, “And, thanks to Kuro, we finally reached a plan.”Bookmark here

Maddie turned her eyes on me and stared silently. Then she got up from the chair she was sitting on and went to her bed.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Well, her silent treatment just sucked. It’s kind of painful to watch her like that.Bookmark here

“What about you? How did your hourglass demonstrations go?” I guess Lily felt the awkward distance between Maddie and me, and so she sought to break the ice.Bookmark here

“I’m tired of all the explaining.” Maddie replied, with her back turned away from us, “The kings kept on asking the same questions, but I think I made them understand in the end…though I had to use a little magic to do that.”Bookmark here

“Haha…” Lily let out an unpleasant laugh, “Maddie, we need to talk.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“Kuro’s here, you know.”Bookmark here

“And so?”Bookmark here

“Don’t go throwing tantrums again, young lady.” Lily sighed, “We’re about to go into war, and the last thing that we wanted is for you and him to be on bad terms. We don’t even know if we’re going to live through this.”Bookmark here

“Sorry.” Maddie was quick to repent on her actions, “It’s just that I’m frustrated at myself, I couldn’t face you, Kuro, for long.”Bookmark here

“Why?” I asked her.Bookmark here

“You know, I couldn’t help but blame myself, no matter how much you try to reassure me. If I didn’t summon you here because of my selfish whims, you wouldn’t have died, nor get yourself involved in this mess I made.”Bookmark here

“Maddie, it’s fine if you think that way.” I told her, patting her head, “But, since I’m here, I’d like to be someone of use as well. When we had our argument before, I kept asking myself after that if this is the way I should take it. And you know what I realized?”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“I could not turn back, not when the girl I love was drawing her strength from me.”Bookmark here

“But I don’t want you to endanger yourself…”Bookmark here

Hah! Don’t worry, I got Lily with me!”Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m not your guard, Kuro.” Lily countered, “You’re the one who’ll be guarding me.”Bookmark here

“What? You expect me, who couldn’t even cast a magic spell, to defend you, the legendary Iron Princess?” I laughed, “But seriously, Maddie, I won’t change my decision now. I’ll fight for you, and for Lily, and for the Chersea you guys love. Please trust me in this, Your Holiness.”Bookmark here

Then I knelt before her to show my sincerity.Bookmark here

“Yes. That’s why I let you go with Lily this time in the War Room.” Maddie revealed, standing up and facing me, “You know, the emperor didn’t come, so I’m coordinating with the other kings who would cooperate with us. We’re placing sanctions on the Empire, as of this moment. And if the Imperial envoy’s words were true, starting today, we’re at war with them.”Bookmark here

“So, it has begun, huh?” Lily quipped.Bookmark here

“Yes…” Maddie replied, pulling a sword from her palm by magic, “And so, I know it’s been way too overdue, Kuro, but now, I pronounce you as my official paladin. May you protect me with your life, forever and ever…”Bookmark here

She tapped my shoulders with the flat of her sword.Bookmark here

Uh, Maddie, that end part, is it really included in the paladin guard’s oath?” I heard Lily ask her, quite amused.Bookmark here

“Well, so that he won’t be apart from me, you know. It’s like insurance, see?”Bookmark here

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Bookmark here

Insurance, huh? I wonder what Maddie meant by that?Bookmark here

Reconciling with her differences about my involvement in her cause, I guess Maddie just wanted to ensure my safety by elevating me to a real paladin. After all, a paladin was like a knight—I could now hire squires to protect me in battles, which was sure to come now that a state of war was existing between the Empire and the coalition of north Chersean kingdoms led by Maddie and Lily.Bookmark here

Well, my fiancé’s that kind of person…Bookmark here

But then again, even though I wanted to do that, my finances were lacking to hire a squire, let alone a group of those. And I don’t intend to ask money from Maddie, nor spend the gold I had.Bookmark here

I got Lily with me anyway, haha!Bookmark here

But kidding aside, I don’t want to hire a squire. It’s an additional burden for me as well.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Wait, if I became a paladin, then that means…I’m a little noble now?Bookmark here

Well, I know little about Chersea’s peerage system, but if that’s so, it could prove useful in the coming days. After all, Maddie gave me a brooch that showed I’m a member of her paladin guard, and a real paladin, too.Bookmark here

Hoh? Seems like Mister Kuro has something in his mind.” I heard a familiar voice say from behind me, “I knew it! There’s something that has happened!”Bookmark here

I turned and saw the little maid, Lady Eris Braunhauer, following me.Bookmark here

“I just found you, Mister Kuro! See, I was on my way to pick up the dirty clothes from Her Holiness’ room when I saw you.” she explained to me, maybe because she was expecting my question, “Did something really happen?”Bookmark here

“Huh?” I was unnerved by her question. Earlier, Lily asked me to keep the existence of the coalition a secret just between me, her, and Maddie. And with Eris’ tarnished reputation, I don’t think I could trust her right now, though she may tell us she already sided with Maddie.Bookmark here

Oh, so something really happened!”Bookmark here

“What? H-How could you confirm that?”Bookmark here

“Well, for one, you’re panicking.” Eris pointed out, “I could see it all over your face, Sir Kuro!”Bookmark here

“Oh…that…haha! Wait…you just called me ’Sir Kuro’?”Bookmark here

“I can see your holy brooch from here.” she chuckled, “So, Her Holiness the Lady Madelaine has already made you her paladin, huh?Bookmark here

“Right…”,Bookmark here

“Yes…and there’s something else, no?”Bookmark here

“Eris, were you reading my mind?”Bookmark here

The little maid laughed, “No! No! What made you think I could read minds, Sir Kuro? I’m just an ordinary human! I could only read the gestures.”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

“Yes!” she nodded, “And you know that once you told a lie, Sir Kuro, you’re turning your head to the left?”Bookmark here

H-Ha? I didn’t know that!” Honestly, it’s the first time I learned of that fact about myself. Eris, you’re really scaring me, kid, you know that?Bookmark here

“Well, I won’t pry much further into your secrets, Sir Kuro.” Eris finally backed down, “I know I did something that would require me to double my efforts in regaining your trust. But, whatever it is, let me tell you that you could always ask help from me.”Bookmark here

“Thank you, Lady Braunhauer!”Bookmark here

“No, please. Don’t call me like that; I still have lots of things that I did that is not worthy of respect.” she bowed, “So, before you give me the respect, at least let me repay for my sins.”Bookmark here

“It’s alright…” Somehow, I’m pitying Eris. But, I guess I shouldn’t say it loud, for this little girl had a big pride in herself and her father’s name.Bookmark here

“And honestly, Sir Kuro?”Bookmark here

“Yes?”Bookmark here

“One of those sins was that I secretly creep into your room whenever you’re sleeping to watch you.”Bookmark here

Eris…you’re really one scary kid.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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