Although the Flaud family had frequently clashed and warred with the Steelwall family, they rarely gained much from their fights; instead, they were often crushed by the Steelwall’s military might. After all, they had even used their own daughter to try to gain the upper hand on the Steelwalls. Thus, whenever they clashed against the Steelwall family, the Flaud soldiers’ morale plummeted since they lost whenever they fought against the Steelwalls.
However, it was different this time. The Steelwalls were suffering from suspicions that accused them of being Bellid followers. While they had many allies, Steelwalls couldn’t request help from anyone. Rumors that the Karuwimans could destroy Steelwall added fuel to the fire, and Flaud soldiers’ courage began to soar with the higher prospects of winning. There was nothing more dangerous than demoralized soldiers, but with these factors, they didn’t have to worry about it this time. It was an ideal situation for the Flaud family.
If things continued like this, Count Flaud would be able to fulfill his greatest wish: seeing the Steelwalls’ complete surrender. After swallowing up the Steelwalls’ property and estate, Count Flaud pictured a rosy dream of him becoming a marquess or greater. However, the plan which had smoothly sailed until now was beginning to crack. He didn’t know whether he should be impressed by how well the plan had progressed until now or lament that it was failing now, but Count Flaud could say for certain that the new turn of events wasn’t favorable to him.
“So, in the end, you are telling me that the plan to get the Karuwimans involved failed.”
Count Flaud stared at the two people standing in front of him. Halton Byner hung his head like he committed a grave sin while Glen calmly stared at him. They showed completely opposite attitudes from one another, but they had one similarity right now—the Count couldn’t stand the sight of them. The nasty-tempered Count wanted to vehemently curse at these men, but he couldn’t do so in the end.
“Yes,” Glen answered simply.
His carefree attitude like he hadn’t done anything wrong irritated the Count, but he restrained himself once more. Yet, he couldn’t hide his disappointment. “Didn’t you say that you would at least be able to excommunicate the Steelwalls even if the Karuwimans didn’t participate in this war?”
“Yes, I did.”
Count Flaud thought that Glen would at least give him an excuse, but Glen didn’t. The Count’s temper barely scraped his limits again, but the Count also thought that something was amiss.
‘Was that guy’s personality always like this?’ As expected of a Karuwiman Honorary Knight, Glen Zenard had always acted like a just holy knight as if he had popped out of a storybook. Thus, Count Flaud naturally believed that Glen would look apologetic about this failure. Instead, Glen only sounded unapologetic and brazen.
‘No, maybe it’s not that he’s unapologetic.’ Now that Count Flaud thought about it, Glen seemed completely out of it, as if his interest in this plan had disappeared.
‘Something must have happened at Yuras.’ However, that was Glen’s problem. If Glen’s attention was elsewhere, it seemed clear that he wouldn’t be of much help in this war too.
‘Why is he causing this much trouble right at the end of things?’ The Count wondered, but he couldn’t act like usual. Glen played a key role in this plan, and the reason why he was able to keep pressuring the Steelwalls so efficiently until now was because the Karuwiman Honorary Knight, Glen Zenard, supported the Flauds.
‘He would’ve been more useful if it wasn’t for that damn grandson of mine…!’ The Count gritted his teeth while thinking about Zich. His troublesome grandson, Zich, failed to keep his position as the heir and ran out of his house instead. Recently, he crushed Count Flaud’s plans to use him to influence the Steelwalls. The biggest reason why Zich had been an outcast in the Steelwall residence was because of Count Flaud, but the Count didn’t blame himself. He only blamed only Zich, and it enraged the Count that Zich became a Karuwiman Honorary Knight and took the Steelwalls’ side.
‘Ever since that guy came back, my plans were thwarted’
In a situation where the Steelwalls were suspected of supporting the Bellids, Zich had significantly lessened people’s suspicions as he took the Steelwalls’ side. However, there was no point in cursing Zich now.
‘I should think about whether or not I can keep using this guy first.’ Even if the importance of Glen’s title as an Honorary Knight couldn’t shine as much due to Zich’s interference, it could still be useful. Rather, if Glen disappeared and Zich continued to side with the Steelwalls, the two families’ positions could completely flip.
‘Although his fighting skills are also outstanding, if his mind is elsewhere, it will be better to take him out of battle,’ Count Flaud thought. If Glen Zenard died in this war because he couldn’t focus, they would no longer be able to use the title of Honorary Knight to shield them.
“It seems there’s something on your mind. How about thinking one more time about your participation in this war…?”
Count Flaud could not finish his words. His annoyance toward Glen disappeared and was replaced by an unpleasant and unknown discomfort. Glen’s eyes moved towards Count Flaud. However, the Count couldn’t help but feel a chill run down his back. He felt a strange and unpleasant sensation behind Glen’s empty eyes. He had to stop himself from cursing.
“I thank you for your consideration but…” Glen continued, “There’s no need for that. I am well aware of how important this war is.”
“…Yes, that’s true.” As a high-ranking noble, Count Flaud masterfully hid his emotions using his experience and pride. However, his perception of Glen completely changed.
‘This guy might be different from the person I thought he was.’ Glen’s stance as a just Karuwiman Honorary Knight might merely be a façade. Even though people would be shocked if this information was made known to the world, Count Flaud had no intentions to expose Glen's true nature or dig into this matter any further. Glen’s personality didn’t matter to him. The only thing that mattered to him was whether or not Glen was useful to him, and Glen was still useful for now.
‘Judging by his reaction, he still seems to be interested in this war.’ Rather, Glen seemed extremely obsessed about it. Perhaps, the reason why he seemed so spaced out might be related to the war. ‘If that’s the case, I should squeeze out everything I can from this punk.’
There was a high possibility that Glen would fully utilize his outstanding fighting abilities for this war and be a valuable asset.
Count Flaud said, “It’s unfortunate, but I guess it can’t be helped since not all plans are successful. In exchange, I hope you can achieve amazing results in this war.”
“Sir, don’t worry. I’ll make sure to fully showcase my skills on the battlefield.”
“Then, that’s good enough. Since you must be tired after your trip to Yuras, you should go and rest.”
Glen turned back and left the room. Count Flaud stared at the door for a bit and shifted his gaze back to Halton whose head was deeply bowed as he nervously waited for his next words. Then, Count Flaud ordered, “You should also go and prepare. I trust that you will show your loyalty to the Flaud Estate in this war.”
“Yes, sir! I will! Thank you, Count Flaud!” Halton bowed many times and left the room.
“Tck!” The Count clicked his tongue after they both left. He was extremely disappointed that their plan fell through. However, he stopped lingering on his disappointment since their situation wouldn’t get any better. ‘Even if this plan failed, we still have the advantage.’
Even if the Karuwimans didn’t join them, Count Flaud was still confident that they’d win. He got up from his seat and walked towards the window. Rain was still pouring outside. It rained so much that he was sick of it, but it was about time for the rain to stop soon. As soon as the rain stopped, he’d launch his offense against the Steelwall Estate.
‘The preparation is over.’ The allied forces he was leading would violently and perfectly crush Steelwall, which wouldn’t be able to get any proper help from outside forces. Count Flaud imagined putting the Flaud flag inside the Steelwall mansion. He couldn’t stop himself from smiling. Even though the Flauds had been enemies with the Steelwall for generations, the world looked at the Steelwalls as a head above the Flauds in terms of power and strength, and their past battles served as evidence.
However, it was going to be different now. He was going to flip the Flaud’s losing streak and destroy the Steelwall Estate. ‘It doesn’t matter what means I use. The last person who laughs wins!’
Count Flaud quickly wanted to obtain the glory of victory and prayed that the rain would stop as soon as possible. News that reinforcements had arrived at the Steelwall Estate had not reached him yet.
* * *
The rain stopped. As if it had never rained, the sky was bright blue, and rather than dark rain clouds, the sky was filled with white clouds. The greenery also shone vibrantly as they soaked in the sunlight after a long time of gloom. The peaceful scenery seemed as if it would sing praises of vitality and life forever. However, it took only a moment for this peace to shatter into pieces.
Horse hooves mercilessly stepped on the dirt that was slowly starting to dry, and the procession of horses formed deep hoof indentations on the ground. The sunlight glittered on the spears that were pointed towards the sky, and the winds made the flags flutter aggressively. It was an enormous army. Fully armored soldiers moved along the path without stopping, and they crossed the country borders without hesitation. The Flaud’s invasion was in full swing. Glen stood in the very front, and he tightly clutched Tornium with cold-blooded eyes.
* * *
The Flauds’ activities were immediately reported to Count Steelwall, and naturally, the Steelwall Estate fell into a commotion. Even though they had expected the Flauds to attack, wars could never be taken lightly. A heavy atmosphere began to flow inside the Steelwall Estate. However, one person had been eagerly anticipating this very moment.
“It’s finally time for me to beat the hell out of that bastard, Glen Zenard.” Zich grinned at the news of the invasion.