Expeditionary Force Meeting
The next day, Sieg ordered me to come over, so I proceeded to bring Aquido and Zem to the tent of the expeditionary force’s valiant Margrave McBurn.
Once I entered the tent, several gazes from local clan leaders, who I assumed to be part of the expeditionary force, quickly fixated upon me.
Both Margrave McBurn and Count Hartwig, as well as many other local clan leaders were gathered here inside the tent. The empire’s current plan involved placing all the burden on the expeditionary force, and so a mastermind naturally appeared there. Those naïve court nobles leading the army was one thing, but we couldn’t leave the vanguard to the local clans that made up the crux of the expeditionary force. Thus, you could say it was only natural that these men gathered here.
“Grey! Are you Grey!?” said a man with golden hair tied up behind him in confusion as he vigorously stood up. He had his hair tied up behind him, and he looked to be in his 50s.
“Huh,” Count Hartwig said as an uncharacteristic smile floated onto his face. In contrast, Margrave Mcburn, who knew of the situation, wickedly grinned.
“Grey, why are you here!?” the golden-haired man yelled with upmost unease.
That’s kinda hard to answer—I mean just think about it. Who would believe that my stepmother forced me into this war in order to get her hands on my inheritance?
“Calm down, Sir Dimer. He’s a proper representative for the Millard family; there’s nothing strange about his presence here,” Margrave Mcburn said, giving me some timely help.
“Are you serious? Grey’s only 12! He shouldn’t be in a place like this!”
Margrave Mcburn was a preeminent figure among the local clans, able to converse equally with the court nobles. Naturally, the clans needed some type of compensation to voice their opinions. In fact, none of the other clans even spoke up here. At the very least, that man valued my life higher than the price he had to pay for speaking up.
He was an existence that knew my age and, without caring for his own safety, objected to sending me off to battle. This might be the first time I’ve met someone like him.
In any case, I have an idea of how to deal with him.
“Oji-sama, I’ve come with resignation, so don’t worry,” I declared while clenching my teeth as hard as possible.
“What an idiot……” said Dimer McGwire in an attempt to encourage me. He then hung his head, shrugged, and gave me a sympathetic stare.
“Hmph, what a blessing for that wicked man to be seen as a mere child,” Sieg muttered under his breath.
“Sieg, don’t say it like he’ll take off his monster guise any time soon,” Count Hartwig said, bellowing in laughter as he repeatedly slapped Sieg’s back.
“Agreed,” nodded Margrave McBurn. “In fact, you’ll easily come to regret pitying him.”
This dumb trio really becomes as annoying as the emperor when they gather together. Let’s hurry up and dive into the main topic.
“Now then, I’ll explain our current tactic of annihilating the undead, aka exterminating the mastermind,” I said.
“Annihilating the undead with pitfalls? How ridiculous!” one noble exclaimed. “If the undead could be done in by something as simple as that, Lamperts-dono wouldn’t have been defeated!!”
“And this lineup. It’s like—it’s almost like we’re completely useless!” another said.
“There’s no way I’m accepting such a shameless plan!” yet another chimed in as voices of complaint washed over the room.
“Um, you see. Do you all really understand just how many undead there are? The animals and monsters in the forest and grasslands have all been turned into undead. The citizens of the overrun cities, too! Based off this fact, they must be at least 10,000 strong. And in comparison—” I explained before Margrave McBurn whispered, “We have a mere 3,000 men.”
Gradually, the commotion calmed down into complete silence.
That said, everyone continued to glare at me in abhorrence while some grinded their teeth and others tapped their legs.
“Sorry, but you all don’t have any sense of danger. Forty percent of the empire has already been swallowed whole by the undead. It would be extremely difficult to annihilate them all, and even if we got away unharmed, the empire has already weakened. The enemy isn’t just the undead anymore,” I said.
“Basically, even if you overcome this crisis, The Amrzs Kingdom and The Holy Kingdom of Esters will attack?” one clan leader confirmed.
“Impossible! Are you saying that the other two kingdoms will start aiming for us if we get destroyed by the undead!?” another said, standing up in a rage. And with just a single glance, I could tell that even he fully understood how realistic this horrible future was.
“Yes,” I continued. “And yet they don’t give us any reinforcements and continue to just look on.”
It’s not like I think that the other two kingdoms are cold-blooded and heartless. This isn’t a normal war—the enemy is undead. They don’t even know at what cost we might win at, and there’s practically no reward. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason for them to step in. Well, there’s also still the possibility that the mastermind behind this are those two kingdoms.
In any case, this performance also serves to keep The Amrzs Kingdom and The Esters Kingdom in check.
“Quiet, you all!” Sieg yelled as the confusion once again died down. Then, Sieg urged me to keep going.
“I’ll continue. Based off the undead’s extremely annoying characteristic of turning you into a fellow undead if they bite you, close quarters combat is off the table. Other than long-distance attacks and flame series magic, not much else will be effective.”
“That’s true, but then pitfalls are still—” one clan leader stood up and began shouting before Sieg shut him up with a wave of the hand.
“It seems that everyone here is still treating this like a war,” I said, “but this is merely an extermination. That’s right, we’re exterminating pests; this primitive tactic is more than enough.”
“Exterminating pests? But isn’t there a mastermind?” another clan leader interjected.
“Yes, so please use your imagination a bit. Is the mastermind moving every last undead one at a time?”
As if he had finally grasped it, Sieg placed his hand on his jaw and said, “So they’re simply giving out orders to their army as a whole from a safe place?”
It’s like how a shepherd controls a huge flock of sheep—some sheep may stray from the flock, but they generally move as one entity.
“I understand,” said Margrave McBurn, “But that means there’s a possibility the mastermind is in a place where they can oversee the battle, right?”
He’s hit the nail on the head.
“So you’re also considering that the mastermind may be lurking internally?” Margrave McBurn continued.
The room erupted into murmurs, but he quickly quelled them.
“Yes, that’s right,” I said.
As I thought, this man is excellent. Count Hartwig and Sieg, too, as they don’t seem to be that surprised.
“Please wait a moment. Are you saying that there’s a backstabber among us who wants to destroy our fatherland!?” one noble exclaimed.
“I didn’t go that far,” I replied. “Just that in looking at the locations where the mastermind can safely and smoothly watch over the battle, that possibility exists.”
“You’re basically saying that they’re there!!”
“Yes. That’s why I’ve only told the full details to his Majesty the emperor. What I’ve explained here is only a small fraction of the plan; it was his Majesty’s intention to give out a portion of information to keep things fair.”
Last night, I reported the entirety of the plan to the emperor after escorting Lilinor back home. I’ve grasped what kind of person the emperor is, and most of all, he lacks any motive to destroy his own country. Basically, there’s an extremely slim chance that he’s the mastermind.
“I see, so the emperor wants to believe in us,” Sieg said as he crossed his arms.
“What a generous man. Unfortunately, I’m not as kind as the emperor,” I said. “I’m fine with the filthy rats that have sacrificed thousands of lives lurking around, and it would be quite interesting if they were hiding in the Imperial Council. I’ll have them dance around like the clowns they are.”
That’s right, among the thousands sacrificed, there may have been someone who neared the source of knowledge. To mercilessly feed and arbitrarily feed them to a lower life form is preposterous. How unpleasant.
“I’ll make them pay interest for their crimes,” I said.
Before I knew it, the place descended into a strange silence. Then, I noticed an unnatural smile creeping onto my face.
Not good, not good. I’ll look like I’m plotting something evil at this rate. I quickly erased the smile off my face when Margrave McBurn said, “You all understand now, right? This guy isn’t normal, but I can promise that he’s telling the truth.”
“I can also attest to the fact that he, his comrades, and I have begun large-scale digging operations,” Sieg added.
They had affirmed my plans, but they just stood stock still and stared at me as if paralyzed.
“Wha?” I murmured.
Sieg slowly shook his head in exasperation and cryptically said, “So you didn’t know……Grey, you should find out more about yourself.”
NOTE: Changed high-rank nobles to court nobles, and powerful nobles to local clan leaders.