Chapter 73: She-Devil (2)

Princess Leila hadn’t been able to touch Claudia yet for one reason -- she hadn’t found any solid evidence. But once she found that evidence(?), that was the day Claudia’s head would be chopped off by the guillotine.

‘Since she also knows that, of course it’ll be uncomfortable to stay in the Capital.’

Princess Leila had understood what Claudia was trying to do. 

‘But… this may be better for me.’

Princess Leila agreed to Duke Brans’ request.

“I understand. As long as we formally recognized the reinforcements from Strabus Kingdom, we would’ve had to send someone from our country to work with you. Like this, I’ll officially delegate Claudia as a liaison.”

“Thank you for agreeing to my request.”

Seeing Duke Brans so happy, Princess Leila knew what was going on.

‘He’s bewitched by her.’

If Milton had heard her, he would probably think, ‘do you even have the right to say that,’ but Princess Leila was convinced. As a woman of wealth, beauty, and family power, Claudia had always used her status to entrap and manipulate any man useful to her. With her bewitching beauty, she was very good at seducing and manipulating men. After playing with a series of men, Claudia had finally landed on the First Prince. But now, the First Prince was dead, and she was once again aiming her sights at another man. 

‘A man with the status of Duke and Master in Strabus Kingdom, a military powerhouse with only three Masters total. A man that vixen would see as worthy of her.’

And from what Princess Leila could tell, Duke Brans himself seemed willing to give his heart to Claudia. Pretending not to see it, Princess Leila continued to speak to him.

“We will also gather an army in order to help recapture our Northern Region.”

But Duke Brans shook his head. 

“There’s no need for you to send more men, Princess Leila.”

“No, Duke Brans. It’s a war fought in our country to reclaim our land. How could we not send any troops?”

He gave her a sardonic smile.

“I’m sorry, Princess Leila, but…”

He spoke as though he was coaxing a young girl who didn’t understand how to fight a war.

“A battlefield without a unified chain of command is more harmful than helpful. Unless we are lacking in men, reinforcement without loyalty is not helpful.”

“Ah, is that so?”

“Yes. If you truly wished to help, then I would be grateful if you maintained a stable supply line and assisted from the back.”

“I see. Confusion in the chain of command. I didn’t think of that.”

Princess Leila muttered, looking as though she didn’t know anything.

“But I’m not comfortable staying out of the war when it’s being fought on our land… Ah!”

Princess Leila exclaimed. It seemed as though she had just realized something. 

“How about we divide the army into two?”

“Princess Leila. Divide into two? What do you mean by that?”

“The road leading up north splits into two — the eastern road and the western detour. How about we divide the army and go in both directions?”

“…That’s not a bad idea.”

Duke Brans couldn’t think of a reason to reject her idea. It’s not like foreign troops were entering his army to tell him what to do and he couldn’t refuse her when she said they would go fight on a completely different battlefield on a different route. He had no reason to stop her. 

“Then it’s decided. Which direction would Duke Brans like to take?”

Duke Brans answered her without hesitation.

“We’ll take the East. The Western detour seems too narrow to move 50,000 troops.”

“Very well. Then, we’ll march West.”

And so, it was decided that the armies of Lester Kingdom and Strabus Kingdom would advance North using two different routes. 

* * *

As the sun was setting and twilight was approaching, Milton received a letter from Princess Leila.

        - Come immediately to the palace. If possible, try not to be seen by anyone.

Per her directions, Milton wore a robe and made sure his face was covered by the cowl of his robe.

“She is waiting, Count Forrest.”

Upon arriving at the palace, an attendant discreetly guided him.  

The location Milton was guided to…

‘You wanted me to come here? Seriously?’

Was Princess Leila’s room. 

In this ambiguous time…

In secret, avoiding the attention of others…

Entering the bedroom of a woman.

‘Should I really go in?”

It was natural for Milton’s imagination to go in strange directions. 

“Princess Leila, it’s Count Forrest. I’m going in, Your Highness.”

As Milton opened the door, Princess Leila was looking through some documents.

“Please wait a minute. I’m almost done.”

She looked over a couple more sheets and sighed as she finished.

“Are you finished, Your Highness?”

“For now.”

Looking at her tired face, Milton spoke.

“You look very tired, Your Highness.”

“I’m alright.”

‘Yeah right…’

Looking at Princess Leila, Milton was reminded of himself when he only had one day of rest a month. He was very familiar with the look of someone who was overwhelmed by work and stress. It was a look he saw every time he had looked at the mirror in his previous life. 

‘It’s the first time I thought someone could look pretty even with the dark circles underneath their eyes.’

Princess Leila walked over to her cupboard and pulled out a bottle of wine and a glass. 

“I’m tired, so there’s no need for you to…”

Milton was planning to refuse, but…

“Huh? Did you want to drink too, Count?”

‘Then you were planning on drinking alone?’

It seemed like that was her plan.

* * *

The two sat facing each other across the table. 

“Do you know why I call you, Count Forrest?”

“Didn’t you call me over because of the war, Your Highness?”

“Yes. In this war, I’m going to ask you to do something difficult, Count Forrest.”

“……”

For a moment, Milton thought Princess Leila was like an NPC calmly telling him, “This quest will be very difficult.” 

“The war itself shouldn’t be difficult, Your Highness. Didn’t Duke Brans come with 50,000 troops from Strabus Kingdom to save us…?”

In fact, it seemed as though taking back the North would be possible with only Strabus Kingdom’s army. But the situation wasn’t that simple. 

“The important thing in this war isn’t whether we win or we lose, but how we win.”

Princess Leila paused to sip her wine.

“Strabus Kingdom is the shield that is preventing Republicanism from spreading across the continent. And for that reason, other kingdoms are cooperating with them.”

“Yes, I know that, Your Highness.”

“And the Strabus Kingdom often uses that fact during diplomatic negotiations, as they have used it this time during our negotiations.”

“Did something happen, Your Highness?”

“Strabus Kingdom believes that we were invaded like this because the Lester Kingdom doesn’t have the strength or the power to keep the Republic in check.”

“That… is true.”

It was true that the Lester Kingdom was weaker than the Strabus Kingdom. 

“On top of that, they used the Second Prince Byron’s advocacy for Republicanism as an example, saying that they couldn’t trust our country and how they didn’t know how much the poison of Republicanism had spread throughout our country.”

“Again… that’s not something we can argue against.”

It was also true that the Second Prince had officially advocated for Republicanism.

The Strabus Kingdom seemed to have diplomatically attacked her using the truth in their favor. 

“So? What exactly does Strabus Kingdom want, Your Highness?”

“After driving out the Republicans from the North, they said they’ll station defense forces to protect our country from the evil influences of the Republicans.”

“Wait… wait a minute. After reclaiming our Northern Region, the Strabus Kingdom plans to station their own army there, Your Highness?”

At Milton’s surprised question, Princess Leila continued. 

“I’m not done yet. Once the official defense treaty is signed, our country will have to hand over our authority in the North to them in order to show our support for the stationed troops.”

“…That’s ridiculous.”

“And finally, for sending their troops to support our country, they’re demanding we pay this amount to finance their military maintenance expenses.”

Princess Leila passed over a document to Milton. Milton looked at the amount on the paper and said…

“Wow, these thieving bastards…”

Sometimes, numbers had this magical ability to make a person curse, like right now.

“So in other words… After recovering it, we’ll protect the northern region, so give us the land and the money. Is that what they’re saying, Your Highness?”

“Ultimately, yes.”

“Haaaaaa….”

Milton was stunned. Of course he knew that international affairs weren’t always driven by ideals. 

Regardless of the reason, Strabus Kingdom had sent troops, so it was expected that they would demand a reasonable price. 

But, this was too much. It was obvious Strabus Kingdom was trying to suck them dry down their very marrow. 

“Did you try to argue against them, Your Highness?”

“Argue…”

Princess Leila gave him a wry smile. 

“Count Forrest.”

“Yes, Your Highness?”

“If you were a nobleman from Strabus Kingdom, would you listen to the protests of the Lester Kingdom?”

“…Damn it.”

There was nothing to say. The difference in national strength between Strabus Kingdom and Lester Kingdom was like the difference between an adult and a child. There was no way they would listen to the protests of the Lester Kingdom. 

In situations like this, weaker countries could appeal to the other countries for unreasonableness…

“Even if we tried to talk to the other countries, I’m guessing they wouldn’t listen to us, would they, Your Highness?”

“No, they wouldn’t. For other countries, it’s more important to stop the Republics from advancing further down south into the Northern parts of the continent.”

“In that case, it would be more natural for them to cooperate with the Srabus Kingdom than with us.”

Seeing Milton instantly understand what she was saying, as though they shared the same brainwave, Princess Leila looked at Milton admiringly. 

‘Is he just that smart? For a military nobleman, he picks up conversation very well.’

Truthfully, the only reason Milton was able to understand the international situation to some extent was because of his previous life’s memories. Because he had lived in a world that was several times more complex and sophisticated, he was able to grasp what was happening in this world.  However, to Princess Leila, who didn’t know of his circumstances, Milton looked to be talented in both cultural and military aspects. 

‘Yes, as I thought. I will make this man mine.’

As the value and her possessiveness of Milton increased, Princess Leila was determined to make him hers.

‘What’s this eerie feeling?’

Milton felt chills down his spine. 

Having explained the difficulties, Princess Leila got to the main point. 

“There are a couple requirements for this war. First, we need to be more active and have more accomplishments than Strabus Kingdom.”

“So basically, we need to prove that our country has the power to defend our borders.”

“Correct. That is the minimum requirement. And secondly, Duke Palan cannot participate in this war.”

“Your Highness? Why can’t the Duke participate?”

“Duke Palan must protect the Capital. If my predictions are correct, there is a possibility that the enemy will directly target the Capital during the war. That’s why we must leave behind a strong force in the Capital as well.”

“Haaa…. This is difficult, Your Highness.”

On the battlefield, the power of a Master was really great. To lose such a power was devastating.

“Aren’t the requirements a bit too much, Your Highness?”

Princess Leila’s lips curved into a smile at Milton’s complaint.

“If you win this war, I’ll make you a Marquis, so please be patient.”

Seeing her use the title of nobility as though coaxing a child with candy, Milton bluntly responded to her.  

“Wasn’t the title of Marquis already promised when we spoke about me becoming a Margrave, Your Highness?”

“Hm, that’s right. Then, what would you like? Is there anything you want?”

When Princess Leila spoke to him in that playful manner, Milton answered back, unintentionally being euphemistic. 

“Then, why don’t you kiss me?”

“Fine.”

“Then, I will… what?”

“It’s just a kiss…”

Princess Leila smoothly stood up and gilded towards Milton.

“Now, close your eyes.”

“Wait… wait a minute. Princess.”

Having stopped her, Milton turned serious.

“Do you truly mean this?”

“You asked for it yourself, isn’t it awkward to be questioning me like this now?”

Milton didn’t think being cool was the important part.

“Are you alright with this?”

“Alright with what?”

“I’m asking if you’ll be alright kissing me.”

Princess Leila gave him a dazzling smile. 

“Count Forrest, I’m thinking of marrying you. Kissing you isn’t a big deal.”

“Marry?”

Milton was truly surprised. 

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