48 – The Royal Banquet (2)
Alexis Imperator Baltaria, the sole prince and crown prince of the Baltarian Empire, left the Imperial Academy for a triumphant nation during his studies because he wanted to.
He was both the prince of the empire and a devout follower of the earth mother.
If he hadn’t been born as a crown prince, he expressed a desire to become a priest of the triumphant nation, mentioning it casually in private. The prince had deep faith.
At the same time, Alexis was very interested in the Saintess Party.
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Warriors. Saintesses. Swordsmen. Philosophers. Mercenary Kings.
He loved the stories of heroes who subdued the demon king like a child. Every time he read their heroic tales, he showed a full look of admiration.
A so-called ‘otaku.’
His obsessive pursuit even made his father and sisters sigh.
There were also stories that he suddenly left the prestigious Imperial Academy, which produced the Saintess Party, because he imitated their actions. It was because Beatrice, who opened the sacred gate of the earth mother, received the call of triumph and took a leave of absence from the academy to become the second saintess of the triumphant nation.
“Your Highness, it’s time to board.”
The knight commander escorting the prince bowed and informed him.
Alexis rose from his seat.
“Ladies, have you all arrived at the Imperial Capital?”
“Yes, we have.”
“It’s been half a year since I returned home. Oh! I should prepare souvenirs for the ladies!”
“I’ve already prepared everything. Don’t worry.”
Will the ladies be well?
Alexis lifted the trunk with a swelling heart.
“Where on earth could the missing Saint Party have gone? Perhaps they’re fighting against the mastermind behind the Demon King…”
The mastermind behind the king who ruled over countless demons… So, was the Demon King just a puppet for someone?
It was a nonsensical idea, a fantasy that a boy who liked to imagine crises would come up with.
But it was perfect to distract from the boredom.
It would take about a week to reach the Hwanta Imperial City. Alexis gestured to the employee waiting behind him, directing them to bring some drinks.
“Sir Malbert, it is said that among the members of the Saint Party, there are individuals known to the public!”
“Could it be… you’re referring to a war enthusiast?”
“Oh, did you already know?!”
“I participated in the racial war, after all.”
Malbert, the knight commander in charge of the prince’s escort, was one of the key figures who led the imperial troops to support the Saint Party.
Therefore, he knew several secrets that were not known to the public.
The sixth member of the Saint Party.
How could he forget the man who spewed fierce gunshots and dominated the battlefield? Even after three years, he still remembered the thunderous gunfire like a distant echo.
Alexis jumped in excitement at Malbert’s response.
It was the prince’s habit to show this intense curiosity whenever his chronic investigative instincts were triggered.
“When I first encountered the war enthusiast… it was probably during the Siege of Raigir.”
“If I recall correctly, that was when the Saint Party broke the seemingly impregnable fortress defended by the Demon King’s main force! The victorious turning point for the Saintly Kingdom that faced successive sieges!”
What an encyclopedia.
Malbert sweated profusely at Alexis’s smooth and fluent response.
“The war enthusiast is the one who demolished the fortress that had resisted numerous fierce attacks. He razed the fortress along with the walls.”
The Siege of Raigir was a battle where the Saintly Kingdom, which had been continuously pushed back by the Demon King’s army, finally gained the upper hand. Strangely, despite being such a significant battle, there were not many detailed documents.
Only brief reports were available, stating the victory achieved by the Saint Party in demolishing the fortress.
Why was that?
As if there was an urgent need to conceal the truth.
It was a historic battle where the devout followers of the Earth Deity vanquished a malevolent force. Naturally, it should be meticulously documented for future generations.
Alexis felt a sense of unease and pursed his lips.
‘Did I speak in vain?… They will surely continue to inquire incessantly during the week-long journey to Hwangdo.’
Malbert’s anxious judgment proved to be spot on.
For a whole week, the questioning onslaught from the Crown Prince resembled a parliamentary inquiry.
“Sir Malbert! Sir Malbert!”
The realization dawned on the Knight Commander.
The consequences of actions that piqued the interest of enthusiasts.
He sighed heavily.
The once dignified Crown Prince, with his graceful appearance, was now starting to be perceived as a noisy parrot.
“Um, Your Excellency…! It seems we need to make a stop at the next platform.”
When the locomotive, which had departed from the prosperous kingdom, crossed the border of the Valterian Empire and swiftly passed the Hohenberg Marquisate,
the engineer spoke with a voice tinged with bewilderment.
“What on earth is happening, engineer?”
Even though they had passed the Hohenberg Marquisate, there was still a day’s journey left to reach Hwangdo.
And now, a stop?
Why would they stop a locomotive that was running at full steam?
Malbert looked at the engineer with questioning eyes.
The engineer then explained the orders that had just arrived for the locomotive.
“It seems an unidentified group has severed the monorail. Princess Ludmila, who was traveling on the locomotive, reportedly got held up because of it.”
“Treason against the royal family…!”
Nothing was confirmed yet.
However, it was undoubtedly an act of rebellion against the Valterian royal family.
They had severed the monorail on the locomotive where the Crown Prince and Princess had boarded. It could only be seen as an attempt to assassinate the royal family.
“Princess Ludmila is waiting at the next platform.”
“Did you say the Princess?”
Alexis, with a rigid expression upon hearing the engineer’s words, spoke with a tinge of reflection.
Despite the situation where an unidentified group had attacked, the Crown Prince genuinely seemed pleased at the prospect of reuniting with his sister.
“The Princess is waiting.”
The train eagerly awaited its arrival on the platform, causing a stir in the air.
* * *
The possibility of internal turmoil within the empire was significant.
After much contemplation, Ludmila finally spoke.
“Perhaps it’s an internal rebellion faction hostile to the Valtaria imperial family.”
“…A rebellion faction?”
The stature of the Valtaria Empire, which had dominated the continent as the perpetual victor, was positioned at a unique pinnacle. This was achieved through continuous conquests and internal reforms.
However, achieving transformation always required sacrifices.
Emperor Barbarosa, currently in power, was hailed as a bold and wise military leader, but in his youth, he was notorious for numerous purges. This was due to his use of the pretext of reform to relentlessly eliminate dissenters.
“They lacked the audacity for rebellion, so they resorted to sabotage. Judging by the clumsy execution, it seems to be the work of a completely inept amateur.”
Reluctantly admitting, the conspiratorial forces were unmatched professionals in acts of sabotage.
Someone who has tasted the meat knows.
Seeing the sabotaged monorail, evidenced by the severed tracks, it was undoubtedly their doing.
Soldiers patrolling nearby reported discovering a bomb planted on the monorail. When the plot was exposed, the criminals planning the sabotage likely set the fire as a diversion.
It was a poorly executed plan from start to finish.
“Ludmila, the Crown Prince has arrived.”
“Is that so?”
As Ludmila and her party searched the monorail, a messenger rushed from the platform.
The Crown Prince had arrived.
Certainly referring to Alexis.
He must have returned from the prosperous country. I heard he studied theology at the academy.
“You look healthy, I’m relieved, Alex.”
A youth with tousled curls and an impressive smile revealed himself. There was not a hint of resemblance to the imposing Emperor in the gentle demeanor of this mild-mannered boy.
The wonders of genetics are truly remarkable.
To think such a gentle son could be born to the Emperor with his majestic beard.
It seems the bloodline inheriting the fierceness is limited to Ludmila and Elizabeth.
“We received word. An unidentified group sabotaged the monorail?”
“That’s correct. We are currently investigating with Edanant officials.”
The gaze of the Crown Prince, who was savoring the joy of the post-victory, turned towards me.
Taking a cue from him, I opened my mouth.
“I am Edanant von Hohenberg, the youngest son of the Hohenberg family.”
“The Holy Sword user…! Is that right?! And I heard you’re the younger sibling of the hero Maximilian!”
The blond youth leaped up, sending adoring glances.
Why is he reacting like that?
As if welcoming some idol.
Even if he’s a celebrity, such an excessive response is awkward.
I sent a glance to Rudmila, hoping she’d restrain her excited younger brother.
But Rudmila just burst into laughter, leaving her overjoyed brother unchecked.
“Surely you’ve witnessed the Holy Sword party yourself!”
“Yes, I’ve visited the Hohenberg family several times.”
“Wow! I envy you! To come face to face with the heroes who vanquished the Demon King in their time…!”
Having encountered numerous individuals who idolized the Holy Sword party until now, Prince Alexis exhibited a level of enthusiasm bordering on madness.
Is there really something to envy?
What’s the big deal about entertaining pests who barged into the family?
“S-So, the Holy Sword…! Is the sergeant currently armed with the Holy Sword?!”
“It’s Alderbaran Hwangsung.”
“Alderbaran! The Divine Sword of Annihilation symbolizing the hero of the Prosperous Kingdom…! It’s my first time seeing it in person!”
“Is that so.”
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Alexis swallowed dryly.
In the Crown Prince’s blue eyes, strong interest and admiration overflowed.
Is he an ardent fan of the Holy Sword party?
It’s a taste so low that it’s pitiable to the point of involuntary sympathy.
“Here it is.”
I unbuckled my belt and handed Alderbaran over with its scabbard.
At that moment, Alexis trembled all over, unsure of what to do.
“Hey, the warrior must have surely seized Aldebaran, right?”
“Of course, he did.”
Alexis’s response became even more rugged and intense.