Chapter 243: Seize Control
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
“But, you have to understand… just by listening to your passionate speech, we cannot instantly believe that Constellation has already become invincible, while Eckstedt is in hot water. And we have to either cooperate with you, or be doomed,” Archduke Roknee said with difficulty. His voice had become hoarse, appearing to lack persuasiveness.
“It is not realistic.”
Lampard took a deep breath.
“Sure, you may doubt me.” He turned around to face Roknee bravely. “But your eyes will not deceive you—King Kessel’s expedition in the Great Desert is evidence.
“If they’ve managed to successfully transport their rations into the boundless desert, they can effortlessly transport them to Dragon Clouds City, to Defense City, the City of Faraway Prayers, or even somewhere within the sentries’ bound,” Lampard said in a forceful manner.
He shook his head. “The City of Faraway Prayers has always warned us about the traffic in the Golden Passage and the anomalies in the desert for generations. They are used to remaining vigilant to potential risks. I hope it is not an empty statement.”
Roknee remained still, he did not speak.
“You can say whatever you want about things that have yet to happen.” Archduke Trentida exhaled, still seeming skeptical. “Simple-minded morons may fall for these exaggerated fear-mongering speculations…”
He narrowed his eyes. “But, you’d best not try them on us.”
Archduke Lecco raised his head, and glanced at Trentida.
Olsius was staring at the ground. His head was lowered and he remained silent for a long time.
“However, they have a team of talented and efficient government officials. That is no lie.”
Lampard gestured to the four archdukes. “After the Bloody Year, the Jadestar Royal Family’s army has been expanding each year. At Broken Dragon Fortress, the number of Mystic Guns and other advanced equipment have also increased—these factors will affect the result of our battle should we ever wage war on them.
“You may even seek clarification from Madam Calshan. All these years, the quality of the Secret Intelligence Department’s new recruits have exceeded that of the Secret Room’s by a significant margin. Up against their spies and schemes, even the formidable Red Witch could only passively employ counterintelligence tactics most of the time—but please trust me, she will not execute a risky scheme if there is the slightest possibility for us to initiate an attack.”
The Archduke of Black Sand Region strode past the four archdukes. His gaze was solemn, creating tension in the air.
“Looking back at the examples of war more than one hundred years ago, and comparing them to the present is not a difficult task,” he said in a deep voice. “But, we are at a critical period, in which decisions about the kingdom’s future have to be made. Undoubtedly, if we miss this vital time, it will be too late to regret anything.”
Lampard walked past a brazier. Against the fiery flame, his silhouette was reflected in each of the archdukes’ eyes.
In that moment, Chapman Lampard’s voice seemed to harbor a heavy weight.
“Constellation and Eckstedt are like two heavily injured swordsmen. We saw each other’s weakness during the previous duel of life and death—time,” he said softly.
Archduke Lecco’s expression changed.
“Our weakness is that we cannot continue to stall for time. We cannot allow more time for Constellation to slowly heal and reform.
“Constellation’s weakness is their need to race against time. They are willing to pay any price to hold off the confrontation until their wounds from the Bloody Year have healed.”
Lampard’s facial expression became stern. “For the past twelve years, our repeated skirmishes have revolved around this weakness.”
He turned around and his eyes gleamed. “I later figured out that King Kessel’s desert expedition, which came with a heavy price not only exhibited Constellation’s ability to conduct a long-distance war campaign, but it also acted a smokescreen. It is to make us feel uncertain about the current capabilities of Constellation, and hesitant about sending troops southwards.”
“All these years, Constellation and the Secret Intelligence Department exhausted their tactics to trigger internal turmoil within us, but also to buy more time for themselves to recover from the damage.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region raised his hand and formed a fist. “Meanwhile, through the prince, or the territories, I attempted to extend regional conflicts to the scale of wars to race against time and ruin Constellation’s scheme.”
“So you want us to send troops?” Olsius said all of sudden. “Even if it means enticing us with benefits beyond expectations?”
Lampard nodded wordlessly.
Trentida exhaled, rubbing both of his palms against each other. “Let’s be realistic; even if we all agree with you and send our armies down south at once…
“What are you planning to do?
“Twelve years ago, even with most of the odds in our favor, we could not move beyond Shepherd’s River farther south.” The Archduke of Reformation Tower spread his hands with an odd expression on his face. “If what you say is true, that our neighbor is no longer how they used to be…”
Trentida chuckled. “Then, what makes you think we can succeed twelve years later?”
The other archdukes fell into deep thought.
But Lampard seemed to be well-prepared. With a soft snort, he came and stood before the rectangular table, tapping its surface.
Shaking his head, he softly said, “There is a difference between twelve years ago, and now.”
Archduke Olsius showed a look of interest.
“Twelve years ago, we were overconfident. When we deployed our army, we aimed to destroy the country right away and planned accordingly.” Lampard shook his head, seemingly regretful. “Our full frontal attack after crossing the Fortress not only devastated Constellation, it also brought us tremendous stress. Thus, our weakness was exposed during the Starlight Brigade’s ambushes.
“When we sensed something was wrong, we were already too deep in trouble.”
Lampard looked up sharply.
“But now, we have figured out our opponent’s situation, and we still have our strengths.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region nodded. “Twelve years ago, the most rational decision King Nuven made was to end the expedition early and retreat with most of our forces, instead of risk our lives to advance for uncertain benefits.”
“How ironic. Twelve years ago, almost every one of us cursed him.” Trentida sighed with a dejected look. “Who knew twelve years later, the only person who would defend his decision at that time would be you.”
He shrugged at Lampard helplessly.
Lampard hesitated, but he clenched his fist all of sudden and resumed.
“This time, we set the target at ‘taking down the Northern Territory’ and that’s it. If it does not go smoothly, ‘taking down the Fortress’ can be our lowest bar.”
Lampard dragged the sheath of his blade across the table’s surface, as though he was drawing a map.
“You all know how detestable Constellatiates are in the National Conference. As long as their interests aren’t affected, the suzerains of Constellation will not willingly assist King Kessel. After all, the latter has been ruthlessly repressing them all these years.
“Hence, just like twelve years ago, we are up against the isolated Northern Territory with no other aid besides the regular troops of the Royal Family—better yet, because of the unending feud between Nanchester and Jadestar, the neighboring Land of Cliffs Region will not send troops to help. In addition, the Northern Territory has yet to recover from the great damage they suffered twelve years ago.”
A brilliant glint flashed in Archduke Lecco’s eyes.
There seemed to be infinite confidence in his words. “In this war, we shall concentrate our forces on the frontal battle, relying on Eckstedt’s military advantage. We will fight a safe fight and seize the Northern Territory. Our ambition will not exceed that, and we will not trouble the logistics department. I am rather confident of this.
“Besides, we will fight in the name of justice to avenge our king. We have their prince, which gives us leverage outside the battlefield.”
Lampard stared at the meeting table with a meaningful gaze and nodded.
“We will not be met with too much resistance.”
The Archduke of Black Sand Region lifted his head and stared at his fellow archdukes. “A dozen days ago, an ancient Northland family known since the Empire Era, also one of the Six Great Clans—the Arunde Family, suffered a big disaster. The Guardian Duke of the Northern Territory, Val Arunde was framed and imprisoned by the foolish as well as tyrannical King Kessel.”
The hall fell into momentarily silence.
Archduke Roknee then sarcastically said, “The Lampards want to cross the border to Constellation to seek justice for a family who has been their mortal enemy for a thousand years?”
Lampard snuck a glance at him.
“It’s better than that.”
A strange emotion glinted in the Archduke of Black Sand Region’s eyes. “Miranda Arunde—Val Arunde’s only remaining daughter, she is currently my guest.”
The other archdukes’ expressions became solemn.
Lampard coldly asserted, “In accordance with Constellation’s law of succession, she is the most eligible heir of the Arunde Family and the Northern Territory.”
The four archdukes exchanged glances and found hints of astonishment in each other’s eyes.
Archduke Olsius of Prestige Orchid mumbled, “So this is the role of the White Eagle Family heiress, is it not? As for what you’ve just said, the assailant caught red-handed during the king’s assassination…”
Lampard merely shook his head, ignoring him. “Hence, it has become easy for us to occupy the Northern Territory. To the people in the region, we are not intruders, but seekers of justice invited by the honorable Lady Arunde to Constellation.
“Unlike the last time.” The Archduke of Black Sand Region’s eyes lit up. “This time, we will not plunge into this mess called war and expose Eckstedt’s weakness in long-lasting warfare.”
At this moment, the atmosphere between the archdukes changed. They became eerily quiet.
Archduke Roknee exhaled and his facial expression was stiff. “You have a very well-thought-out plan, Lampard.”
Without a word, Archduke Lecco eyed Lampard closely once again. His gaze was grim.
Archduke Trentida frowned, pondering. “Good, so just like King Nuven’s granddaughter… we make the Arunde girl our puppet. Then with some tricks, turn Arunde’s Northern Territory into Lampard’s Northern Territory… What’s next?”
The smile on Lampard’s face was a chilly one.
“Once we settle down in the Northern Territory, and build our base there, we can end this three-hundred-year standoff completely. Eternal Star City will lose the Northern Territory forever, practically losing a tenable spot to defend themselves—we have the absolute power to take the initiative. We can launch an attack, or we can retreat and form a defense line. Even if we stay put, we will still be an invisible threat, creating pressure on Eternal Star City.”
He pointed at the imaginary map on the table with his sheath.
“So you volunteer to seize the land in the Northern Territory, which is guarding the southern border, and you’re even willing to give Black Sand Region up.” Olsius looked up vigilantly. “All for this purpose? To apply pressure on Constellation? You believe you can do it?”
Lampard slowly nodded.
“To achieve this, is there anyone more suitable than me?” He gave a cold snort.
“Tell us more,” Roknee who was standing in a corner said coldly.
Lampard took a glance at him. He nodded.
“Through frequent intrusions and military exercises, I plan to apply constant pressure on Constellation, particularly Eternal Star City.” Lampard frowned. His facial expression was solemn. “During this campaign, I will go easy on the Constellatiate vassals in the Land of Cliffs Region and Western Desert—they will then realize what they can obtain from the fall of the Central Territory and Eternal Star City. Every time King Kessel intends to take action on his internal management or act against external threats, I will make it difficult for him.
“In the Northern Territory, the Arunde Family, under our control, is not just leverage in our war and conquest. Their legitimacy and years of prestige in the Northern Territory will also become a thorn in the flesh to the King of Constellation.”
Trentida and Lecco exchanged glances.
“It will devastate the reputation of the Jadestar Royal Family, forcing Renaissance Palace to invest a large sum of money, resources, and energy on military defense as well as foreign affairs. And because of this, they will not have time for the other territories and vassals. Thus, the Royal Family’s influence and control over the kingdom will wane. After all, those nobles repressed by Kessel for years are not easy to deal with.”
Lampard’s facial expression turned grim. There was a hint of undecipherable zealousness in his eyes.
“In conclusion, we may not take down our enemy with a single blow, but we can assert our presence by assuming the role of an unignorable threat. We will forcibly place other chess pieces on Mindis’ chess board, forcing a sudden, unhealable eruption of conflict within them. It will make them postpone their reformation indefinitely, or perhaps even stop it completely.
“As time passes, Constellation will be devastated by the inner and external conflicts of their tumultuous steps to reformation and evolution.” Lampard looked up with a sharpening gaze. “We will then turn the tide.
“Seize control and exert dominance.”
All of a sudden, a hearty female voice came outside the doorway, “Your Grace, I am coming in!”
The sound of metallic friction rang outside the entrance of the hall.
The four archdukes became tense, and turned to look at Lampard.
Lampard’s expression changed. He then nodded at them.
“Let her in,” Archduke Lecco said loudly. “We will be fine.”
Followed by the archduke’s utterance, the sound of swords placed back into sheaths came from outside the door.
The next second, the figure of Kroesch, the swordswoman appeared in the hall.
This female warrior, which was uncommon in Eckstedt, strode towards Lampard respectfully and whispered into the archduke’s ears with a solemn expression.
At that very second, the sharp-eyed Archduke Trentida saw Lampard widening his eyes abruptly!
Something had happened.
‘It seems to be related to the situation at hand,’ Trentida thought.
A cluster of flying arrows dove towards the ground from the gatehouse like a swarm of locusts!
*Thump! Clink! Clunk!*
A brief and ear-splitting wave of objects being pierced through sounded.
But the expected scenario did not occur.
Neither were the two carriages with the emblems of Good Flow City covered in arrows, nor did they slow down. They continued speeding towards the gatehouse!
On the other hand, the members of the three patrol teams stopped dead in their tracks. They gawked at the ground in front of them in astonishment. Their skin crawled.
Countless arrows were nailed to the ground a few feet before them, separating them from the two carriages.
If they had taken one step forward, perhaps one of the arrows would have landed on one of their heads.
With that thought in mind, the members of the patrol teams looked up at the gatehouse in fury and confusion.
On the gatehouse, Phil, the archer withdrew his bow and arrow. He watched contentedly as the patrols were obstructed by a line of arrows fired by his team.
Phil turned around, gesturing to Count Levan. The count gave him a thumbs-up in response.
The two carriages, along with their escorts, raced towards the gateway under the gatehouse.
“What the hell happened?”
Outside the gatehouse, Chief Garrison Officer Viscount Leisdon, the acting commander of the patrol teams was overwhelmed with rage.
How many years has it been since he last saw his troops being stopped before a gatehouse by warning shots?
Let alone in Dragon Clouds City?
“Sir, Madam, you saw that. They… How dare they?”
Leading two similarly furious guards, Leisdon pointed at the gatehouse, bellowing at Prime Minister Lisban and Calshan, the Red Witch.
“They attacked my team?
“They attacked the patrol team that protects the city, attacked the rightful army of the king!”
Clenching his fist, he roared, “No matter who they are… we will completely destroy them all!”
Followed by a loud clunk, the emergency gate in the middle of the gatehouse was lifted amid the sound of metallic friction.
The two carriages slowed down and drove through the First Gatehouse with their escorts. They entered the inner city on the highest ground, heading towards Heroic Spirit Palace.
Count Lisban furrowed his eyebrows. He took a glimpse at the carriages that broke through a close siege and raced into the gatehouse. He then quietly observed the situation above the gatehouse. His white hair fluttered in the wind.
“Calm down, Your Grace,” the prime minister said impassively. “Everything that happens in the world happens for a reason.”
Viscount Leisdon fell silent, but his breathing was still rapid. The veins on his arms were bulging. He was eyeing the Red Witch beside the prime minister with a hostile look.
“Tell us the truth, Madam Calshan.” Prime Minister Lisban heaved a sigh. “Who are those people on the gatehouse? Who were in those two carriages?
“Who is in Heroic Spirit Palace?
“Forget it.” Lisban shook his head. “I recognize that archery skill. Twelve years ago, when we attacked the Fortress, Phil and his comrades were the best archers to perform warning shots—thanks to Black Sand Region’s experience in fighting against the Fortress.”
The Red Witch frowned slightly, seemingly a little surprised. Then, a sympathetic look appeared on her face.
“You are impressive indeed, Lisban,” she uttered slowly.
Lisban saw the look on her face clearly.
“The patrol team’s uniform, the mysterious increase in the number of soldiers, and the letter from Heroic Spirit Palace urging me to head over…” The prime minister shook his head with a weary expression. “And your sudden appearance?
Madam Calshan narrowed her eyes. She did not reply.
But Lisban did not expect her to answer.
“I have had enough of all this.” The white-haired prime minister lifted his chin. He stared into Madam Calshan’s eyes, and coldly said, “And I have had enough of my own incompetence as well as indecisiveness.”
The Red Witch sighed and said, “Prime Minister, believe me, this is not as simple as it seems.”
“Somebody…” he ordered with a frosty expression on his face, “…invite Madam Calshan to my temporary office. Let her settle in an enclosed chamber. Remember to be polite.”
Viscount Leisdon’s anger had yet to wane. He waved his hand, and from the distance, a team of patrol soldiers marched towards them furiously.
“Without my order, she will probably have no intentions to leave,” said the prime minister sternly.
Calshan stared at him with a look of astonishment.
Lisban turned his head again, looking at the patrol team behind him.
“Leisdon, have your men ready!” the prime minister ordered coldly.
Viscount Leisdon was startled.
‘Have them… ready?’
The Red Witch’s expression changed slightly.
“Prime Minister, you need to think over this carefully.” The Red Witch frowned. “This order of yours will not only affect yourself, but Dragon Clouds City.”
Her eyes showed a conflicted expression. “It will perhaps, make Eckstedt plunge into a situation of irreversible disaster.”
Lisban turned around and took a meaningful glance at her.
The emotion in his eyes was indecipherable.
“Calshan, my old friend.”
The prime minister placed his hands behind his back and ambled to her side. He faintly said, “For more than ten years, since you mercilessly orchestrated the collapse of the Lampard Family…
“…I have feared you immensely…”
Calshan was slightly stunned.
Lisban finished his speech calmly, “Now I understand. You did not choose Chapman Lampard.”
The Red Witch closed her eyes and sighed softly. “Lisban…”
The prime minister’s gaze was incredibly terrifying.
“You made him who he is today.”
Calshan lowered her head, her smile gentle.
Viscount Leisdon showed up next to the prime minister with a hesitant look. “What are we preparing for, Sir?”
Lisban no longer cared about the Red Witch’s response. He turned his head sharply to look at the gatehouse and at the slowly lowering steel gate. His gaze was firm and determined.
“Prepare to take down the city,” he said coldly.