BBYW Vol. 1 Interlude 2

Interlude 2 –  5 years ago — The Prodigal Son’s Disappearance

【POV : Margrave Maxwell】

“Hmm, so war is unavoidable.”

“Yes, so it seems.”

I received the house steward’s report and nodded gravely.

My name is Dietrich Maxwell. I am the head of house Maxwell, margrave of the eastern province of the kingdom of Lamperouge, defender of its borders.

Presently, the eastern province was facing a very risky situation: an invasion attempt by the neighboring country, the Baal empire.

The Baal empire has been a long-time enemy of the Maxwell territory: we have fought many times over the years, since before the birth of the Lamperouge kingdom.

The empire, founded 200 years ago by emperor Zebul Baal I, has always held the unification of the continent as one of its core principles.

Guided by this goal, the empire has repeatedly attacked its neighboring countries; 50 years ago it clashed for the first time with the then Lamperouge Alliance.

Our battles with the empire did not cease after the alliance was reborn as a kingdom: house Maxwell and house Utgard, located respectively near the eastern and northern border, crossed arms with the empire on many occasions.

“The last invasion attempt was two years ago, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. The empire’s forces used the northern route that time, thus we did not participate in the battle.”

The empire had become more and more active in the last 10 years.

The reason lies in the declaration made by the current emperor, Perbiar Baal, five years ago.

『The seat of the next emperor shall be inherited by who, among my sons, annihilates one enemy country first.』

The current emperor had three sons: he assigned one country to each son and announced that whoever defeated the enemy country and subjugated it under the empire’s rule first would be his successor.

Spurred by the declaration, Lars Baal, first prince of the Baal empire, attacked the Lamperouge kingdom.

“That blasted emperor and his blasted last words…why do we have to pay the price for their inheritance games!”

“Master, the emperor is still alive, so I’m afraid those are not his last words.”

“Hmph, it’s just a matter of time. That nasty bastard!”

I snorted as I pictured the emperor in my mind.

I had seen the supreme leader of our sworn enemies only once on the battlefield, when I was young: now he was apparently ill and could not even leave his castle.

Who knows how long he had left to live. If all princes failed to achieve their assigned goal before the emperor passed, the resulting inheritance conflicts would surely bring turmoil within the empire. For the Lamperouge kingdom, there couldn’t be a better prospect.

“In any case, we must prepare for battle. When is the empire’s army expected to arrive?”

“According to our scouts on the border, they are expected to reach Fort Bryden in twenty days at the earliest.”

Twenty days — five days were needed to hold a war council and decide our counterattack strategy. Ten days to assemble the army and gather supplies. The fortress was one day away on horse, three days on foot from here. We certainly didn’t have much leeway.

“I see. We will hold an emergency council of war first. Send orders to our retainers to prepare their troops. You have dispatched a messenger to Fort Bryden already, I hope?”

“Yes, certainly. I have also sent word for our generals to gather, so the war council can be held immediately.”

“I see, excellent.”

Having a skilled house steward allowed me to move quickly and efficiently: he was an invaluable asset.

I stood up from my seat — and spoke my thoughts out loud.

“Oh, right. Let’s have Dyngir experience his first battle this time.”

“The young master, my lord?”

“Yes, he’s already thirteen after all. It’s time for him to experience the battlefield. I plan to put him in the rear, of course.”

My son, Dyngir Maxwell, was objectively an outstanding young man in many ways. He already excelled in his studies of both martial arts and horse riding skills and was also a quick learner in terms of internal politics and military strategy.

(He’s getting a bit cocky lately though. I will let him see an actual battlefield to teach him how harsh reality can be.)

I had such thoughts in my head as I continued speaking.

“Since we’re at it…let us have the Efreeta and Silfis sons see their first battle too. I’ll have them accompany Dyn.”

The heirs to house Efreeta and house Silfis, viscount ranked retainers of house Maxwell, were currently staying in our residence. We were having them learn various disciplines, as well as build a relationship with Dyngir, who would eventually become their lord.

“Let Dyn and those two participate in the council of war. It will be a learning experience for them.”

I nodded to myself, convinced it was an excellent idea, and gave instructions to the house steward accordingly.

“Aah…the young master, actually…”

“Mh? Did something happen?”

I encouraged the house steward to explain, and he did so in an apologetic tone.

“…the young master and the two viscount heirs have left early in the morning.”

“It’s already past noon though. They aren’t back yet?”

“Yes, well…apparently, they went hunting in a mountain close to Fort Bryden. According to the message the young master left with Eliza…”I’m going straight to the fort after the hunt”…”

“Whaaat!?”

I couldn’t close my jaw.

My foolish son apparently went ahead to the battlefield on his own.

Dyngir Maxwell, the boy that would later be hailed as the Maxwell prodigy.

It all started 20 days before his first battle.

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