Chapter 67 is here!
Sorry for the delay, I’m in the process of moving countries, which ate up a lot of my time, but I should be done with that tomorrow. As I’m writing this, I’m also getting all my luggage ready, weighing it all, organizing my papers. It’s a nightmare. If you’ve been there, you probably know what I mean.
Anyway, for the Patrons, Chapter 68, Chapter 69, chapter 70 (Easy mode) and chapter 71 are all available on the Patreon page.
Anyway, here’s chapter 67 I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Right after Frigga’s arrival, a knight was dispatched on horseback from fort Miever.
He kept going day and night, without stop. Nowadays, there were inns with horse stables through all of Jormungand, yet he did not take a rest at any of them. He just switched horses and kept going at a staggering speed.
It was only two days later, in the morning, that he finally reached the kingdom’s capital.
Still, he had marked a new record for the shortest time it took to reach the capital from fort Miever.
【”I am here to report something to the minister of war… Sir Cellvis Bayard. I am a platoon leader of the forces stationed at fort Miever, Vals Crayn!”】
Out of breath, the knight collapsed on his horse’s mane, but he still managed to push some words through his painful groans.
Judging by the knight’s ghastly appearance, the gatekeeper who heard him out understood that this man had come as fast as he could, with no regard for his own life.
And that meant he was here to report something urgent.
【”I understand… Hey, you! Hurry and go notify the royal court! As for you, here, have some water. Keep it in your mouth a bit. Don’t drink too fast.”】
As he looked after the exhausted knight, the gatekeeper’s heart was beating wildly. He had a bad feeling about this.
Fort Miever was known for being the front line facing the Asgard empire’s border. It was an important strategic position.
And the knight wouldn’t have been in such an incredible rush unless something of extreme importance was taking place.
So there was something important going on, and it was related to the border.
(Is a war about to start? …I might not get to enjoy this easygoing gatekeeper life for much longer.)
◆ ◆ ◆
Vals Crayn’s report hit Jormungand’s royal court like a massive earthquake.
Everyone in the court had already been talking about Lapland’s victory on a daily basis like it was something mythical, but they were struck by even greater awe when they heard that Frigga had come through the enemy’s nation and had taken out a whole fortress with only a few cavalrymen.
This was a true hero’s tale.
The patriotic princess had pierced straight through the enemy’s territory, where she was surrounded everywhere by hostile forces, yet she had triumphed and had even destroyed a fortress on the way. This story had pulled the heartstrings of Jormungand’s nobles.
【”―― This is ridiculous!”】
Ever since Lapland’s victory, the marquis of Strasbourg, Albert, had been desperately trying to keep his faction together while the nation’s fear of Asgard faded a little more each and every day.
This report had made him unfathomably angry. He wanted to tear the messenger limb from limb from limb. He could not understand how anyone would dare report something so absurd to the royal court.
If he believed the report of that knight, this would mean that princess Frigga had crossed through the empire’s territory for 250 miles (400km) straight with the help of only a hundred cavalrymen.
To top that off, she had supposedly destroyed the Mercury fort, along with the hundreds of men who were stationed there, without a losing a single one of her own men.
If such grand feats were truly possible, than the concept of ‘problems’ would not exist in this world.
Even a layman like Albert knew that the Asgard empire itself would need a an army of at least 10,000 calvarymen to pull this off.
In other words, Vals had just reported false information based on exaggerated rumors.
Albert came to that conclusion partly because the information was too unrealistic, but mostly because Asgard’s side had not informed him of anything as of late.
Thanks to his betrayal of his country, Albert could afford to be overconfident about the accuracy of his own information since his intel came straight from Asgard.
But while that was true back when the Asgardians were riding on a string of victories, their current circumstances weren’t quite as good, and the information they gave to the traitors who worked with them was more filtered.
There was no way they would casually share information like the death of an Asgardian squadron commander and the destruction of his army.
As was often case with people from a prestigious background, Albert had never doubted the fact that he was an important collaborator for the Asgard empire.
But in reality, he was ultimately just a pawn among many others that the empire was using to cause chaos in the Jormungand kingdom.
And of course, Albert’s worries were right. The Asgard empire had no intention to just give him the throne to Jormungand, and to then kindly watch over him. After all, they were only pretending to be collaborating with him for profit.
【”But who’s been pushing this fake information? Was it sir Bayard? Or maybe that meathead Rosberg…”】
The problem was that the information of Frigga’s visit, which Albert believed to be false, was currently being used to try to reshape the power balance of the royal court. And it was very effective at that.
No matter the circumstances, the presence of an actual hero would always make people put their emotions ahead of their reasoning. Especially when said hero was a beautiful princess.
If Frigga came to openly offer her support to Lunaria, Felbelle’s faction would be as good as dead.
For better or worse, Felbelle did not have a strong personality like her sister, Lunaria.
This made it easy for the aristocracy to deal with her and for Albert to manipulate her, but the disadvantage of that weakness was becoming clearer now.
【”Raglan, are you here?”】
【”Go find the true identity of that impostor who calls herself Frigga. It doesn’t matter whether the information she gave us is true or false. What matters is her identity. There is no way she’s who she claims to be.”】
【”―― Your wish is my command.”】
◆ ◆ ◆
The man who stood at the top of the list of the members of Lunaria’s faction was the minister of war, Bayard Cellvis. And unlike Albert, he knew that Vals’ report was true for the most part.
Cellvis had been told by Kurats himself about the plan to rescue Lapland, before it even began.
Granted, he had his doubts at first, but how could he have imagined that Kurats would manage to get such great results so quickly? It was unbelievable.
At best, he had thought that, with some luck, Kurats would be able to contribute a little bit and would help delay the downfall of Lapland.
(As expected of a man who gained her highness’ trust. But I still don’t acknowledge him as a fitting groom for her.)
Cellvis’ face stiffened up as he reaffirmed his determination to keep Kurats away from Lunaria.
Being strong was not enough. Lunaria’s future partner also had to be capable and dignified enough to stand tall in the world of politics.
As Cellvis’ face switched from one expression to another, a middle-aged soldiers silently approached him from behind. He was one of Cellvis’ aides.
【”…The marquis of Strasbourg appears to have concluded that the person waiting at the border is an impostor.”】
The aide’s report gave Cellvis a good laugh.
(Heh, he’s always so cautious and he chose this timing to be careless.)
But when he thought about it, this wasn’t all that unreasonable.
Had he been in the same position, Cellvis felt like he would have surely drawn the same conclusion.
Capturing a fortress defended by hundreds of guards and then completely destroying it with the help of only a hundred men? That sounded like something straight out of a fairytale.
Even with the participation of the kingdom’s pride, Rosberg, this would still be impossible to do for Jormungand. Of course, the same could be said about every other country on the continent.
But the world-famous Frigga had no need to spout such false claims. After everything she went through to defend her country and gain independence, it would be stupid of her to smear her glorious victory with that kind of foolish lie.
That being the case, the woman who had introduced herself as Frigga could only be a complete impostor, and this whole masquerade was most likely inspired by Lunaria’s faction to gain more influence.
It was only natural for Albert’s thoughts to go in that very logical direction. But this time, he was wrong.
Moreover, there was something else that Cellvis knew and that Albert had yet to find out about.
【”Hmm, I won’t praise him too much, but I guess I’ll give him a passing mark for tricking someone in the castle from all the way there.”】
An evil sneer was plastered on Cellvis’ face.
His expression looked somewhat like the face of a young boy lured into mischief by another kid.
【”Well, he’s right to take things in his own hands. I’m not one to stand back and wait either. I guess we’re the same on that aspect.”】
Apparently, the princess Frigga waiting at fort Miever was a beautiful woman with black hair. She did not fit the appearance she was said to have in the rumors.
There was nothing strange about that since she really was a different person, in appearance.
Indeed, a certain malicious mage had changed the princess’ looks through a spell.
Cellvis had guessed Kurats’ intentions, and he could not stop himself from snickering mischievously.
(I can’t wait.)
Then, he remembered to send his aide out.
◆ ◆ ◆
At first, the shocking report of Frigga’s visit had brought a tidal wave of excitement over the kingdom’s royal court, but since the information was far too unrealistic, and given that the minister of war, who should have been the most excited of the bunch, had stayed completely silent, the whole matter was quickly dying down.
Albert felt relieved.
(I thought things would get troublesome, but in the end, this is starting to look like it might be a great opportunity for me instead.)
This was Albert’s chance to expose whoever was behind this foolish masquerade and to deal a finishing blow to Lunaria’s faction.
Since Cellvis hadn’t made any moves, this probably had nothing to do with him.
In that case, was this actually caused by some regular subordinates in Lunaria’s faction acting recklessly?
Either way, this was a big enough blunder to weaken the military’s influence.
Albert chuckled to himself at the idea of what was to come.
All he really had to do was to push things a bit so that everything would be ready in time for Asgard’s invasion.
He could see it now. Clear as day. The path of victory in the strife for the throne.
【”My lord, is everything okay?”】
【”Oh, Raglan, you’re here. How did it go?”】
Albert’s spy, Raglan, silently bowed his head without any change to his expression, and proceeded to make his report.
【”The woman who pretends to be the princess has black hair and black eyes. She’s indeed an impostor. I double checked with a couple people who have seen the real princess before, just in case.”】
【”Are you certain she’s not the real deal?”】
【”She’s the Snow White Valkyrie. From that alone, even a child could tell that she’s an impostor after looking at her. Besides, she’s supposed to have golden eyes and to be the same height as his majesty, king Siegfried.”】
【”Then it’s really not her. Unless she’s disguised herself, but it’s meaningless for the princess to do that after everything she went through to reach our country. This whole story is so foolish.”】
Anyone could see through this all by just thinking about it a little.
(Lunaria’s faction must have felt quite cornered if they lowered themselves to relying on such poor lies.)
Albert was convinced of his victory now. But Raglan’s next words came down on him like a cold shower.
【”But there was one problem…”】
【”I saw that special mage at fort Miever. And he was standing by the side of the impostor.”】
At that moment, Albert felt like everything became clear.
Kurats was a commoner, an upstart who had risen through the ranks by curing the princess. Even now, he was still just a small noble, whose sole backer was Lunaria.
If Lunaria was taken outside the country as the emperor’s new wife, there would no longer be anyone to protect Kurats.
It all made sense now. Such a simplistic masquerade seemed quite fitting of a commoner with no education or experience.
Although his magic was certainly amazing, when it came to politics and schemes, he was an amateur.
Albert could only laugh now that he understood.
【”Heh… That’s great news. This is my chance to get rid of two nuisances without lifting a finger.”】