BBYW Vol. 2 Chapter 30 (WN)
Chapter 30 – Sowing Distrust
One week had passed since the conflict between the Maxwell army and the imperial forces began.
Throughout that period, the empire never stopped attacking. At times from the front, at times with ploys and traps, they tried to take down Fort Bryden in all sorts of ways, but the Maxwell army repelled each attempt.
The imperial allied forces won in terms of numbers, but the First Imperial Army was intimidated by the poison and gunpowder, while the Second Imperial Army and Imperial Knights struggled with sieges — a kind of battle they had little experience in and did not allow them to exert their true ability.
Amidst such fear, frustration and exasperation, the imperial army’s hostility was beginning to shift away from the Maxwell forces…
“I just can’t…this is just too strange.”
In the First Imperial Army camp, the First Prince — Lars Baal was biting his nails and growling.
The sun had long set past the horizon, but the clouded sky did not show even a glimpse of the moon or the stars. The many bonfires lighting up in the camp, however, illuminated it as if it was noon.
Lars glared beyond the darkness, towards Fort Bryden, anger and resentment in his eyes. His expression was sterner than ever.
“Your Highness, please return to your tent. You should rest soon, or tomorrow you may suffer.”
“Leave me be, I need to think.”
One of the knights escorting Lars urged him to rest, but he refused and resumed his thoughts.
“What could be vexing you so much, Sire?”
“…it has already been one week since this battle started. But only our army has been reporting great losses.”
After a bit of hesitation, Lars replied to the knight’s question. He wanted to see if his suspicion was his alone or not.
“Your Highness, actually…we have all been wondering the same thing.”
“As expected. I can’t shake the impression that the Maxwell forces are being rather reserved against Grett and the imperial knights.”
The First Imperial Army was attacking the fort’s eastern walls, but had suffered from the poisoned arrows and gunpowder ever since the first day of battle. They had been fighting with more prudency from the second day forward, which allowed them to contain their casualties, but both fighting power and morale had been gradually decreasing.
Thinking that the other armies were surely struggling, Lars sent some men to check on their situation; contrary to his expectations, however, the Second Imperial Army and the Imperial Knights, attacking the north and south walls respectively, reported much lower losses.
Apparently, the poisoned arrows and gunpowder were not being used against them: they were instead very surprised by the amount of casualties suffered by the First Imperial Army.
“I too have heard from the knights who went on the inspection but it looks like the other armies are not fighting seriously.”
“They aren’t fighting seriously? What does that even mean?”
Lars frowned and the knight continued.
“Both the Second Imperial Army and the Imperial Knights possess the same siege weapons we do, but they appear to have barely used them. Or at least, they didn’t seem to have been used effectively.”
“How could that be? They must know how to use a siege weapon, don’t they?”
Indeed, Lars had identified the source of the problem: the Second Imperial Army and the Imperial Knights really did not know the proper way to use siege weapons. Yet the seeds of distrust in his heart had already sprouted.
“It can’t be that…they are colluding with Maxwell?”
“T-that cannot be!! Yet…but…”
The knight tried refuting Lars’ words, but realized he had nothing concrete to stand on and ended up swallowing his words.
Even now Grett Baal, leader of the Second Imperial Army, was a political rival of Lars. In the first place, it was strange for him to participate as an ally in the military campaign.
(For the sake of saving our sister, he said…ridiculous. That cold, egotistical man would never act because of familial love…which means that he has to have another goal in mind…)
Another goal…the only thing that came to mind was to target his — Lars Baal’ own life.
On the other hand, Lars couldn’t think of any reason why the Imperial Knights would oppose him, but at present they were loyal to Rossellia Baal more than anyone else. Maxwell might have used Rossellia’s safety as a pawn to force them to join his side.
“If my imagination is correct…”
On this battlefield, there were only enemies.
A surefire victory had just turned into an unexpected deadly trap. Sweat lined Lars’ forehead.
“N-No, we can’t be sure yet…we should hold a war council and talk with everyone first…”
“Yes, I believe that is the best course of action.”
“Hmm, then let us call Snowe and…”
“You mustn’t, Sire!!”
The knight, who had just nodded to Lars’ idea, suddenly shouted. Lars, surprised, looked at him: the young knight shook his head with a stern expression on his face.
“Please forgive me for this disrespect, Sire. But Sir Snowe Halphas is rumored to be colluding with Prince Grett. It would be dangerous for him to know that we have doubts about Prince Grett’s actions.”
“How absurd, those are just rumors, are they not?”
“Where there is smoke, there is fire, as they say. The witnesses that saw Sir Snowe enter Prince Grett’s office are not just one or two either, Your Highness. I humbly suggest that until we ascertain the truth, we should not let Sir Snowe know of any vital information.”
Lars ruminated on the knight’s words and reflected.
The reason why he doted on Snowe Halphas was because he was a promising young talent and also because he was the younger brother of Eis Halphas, who had died five years before in order to let Lars live.
Lars believed he had done all he could in order to support Snowe, who strove to surpass his brother, also as a way to repay the loyalty of the man who died for his sake.
(Even so…I should not let such emotions sway me.)
Trusting temporary surges of emotion had led Lars to failure, again and again.
Every failure also led to the death of knights who had faith in him.
He could not repeat the same mistakes again.
“I see your point…I do not know if Snowe betrayed us or not, but let us be wary. Tell the other close retainers to assemble in my tent, immediately!”
“Right away, Sire!”
Lars returned first to his tent, located in the center of the camp. The young knight went to call the other retainers, following his orders.
From a distance, someone was observing the movements of the two men.
“It appears that our chance has matured earlier than expected. Inform the Young Master.”
The shadow-like silhouettes faded in the darkness, as silently as they had appeared.
What remained was just the light of the bonfires, illuminating the night.